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1

The Stone Roses

The Stone Roses

[1989]

 

 

I'm a confessed CD-a-holic.  Even when I've run out of CD's to purchase, I'll take a risk and buy a CD of a band I've never heard before.  Quite often, the risk doesn't pay off.  The Spinal Tap soundtrack is a masterpiece of cock rock (and probably not something you'd appreciate unless you were obsessed with the movie like I am).  But does that _really_ mean I'd appreciate their 2nd album as a "real" band, Break like the wind?  Well I thought so, and when I saw it for $30, I figured I'd take a risk.  The album ended up being pretty terrible, as the joke was over by this stage.  They were attempting to be a real band on this album (well...relative to their soundtrack) and, well...it just didn't work.

So what does Spinal Tap have to do with the Stone Roses' debut album?  Before I lose all credibility as a reviewer, allow me to defend myself!  The point of that seemingly unrelated intro is this:  That was an example of a calculated risk that failed.  But every now and then the risk _does_ pay off.  When one buys an album on impulse having never heard _anything_ by that artist, and are only doing so based on reviews they have read, and it subsequently becomes their favourite album of all time, the said person has every right to feel pretty happy with themselves.

So what about the music?  It's taken my to the third paragraph to get to the point of this review - the music!  I'll try to describe this album as best as I can.  Take several spoonfuls of everything good from the 60's.  Add a spoonful of late 80's/early 90's "Madchester" cockiness.  Add 10 cups of timeless pop "vibe".  Add a twist of dance for good measure.  Mix it all up in a blender and you get this album.

What makes this album even more brilliant is the fact that this album came from the 80's, the decade where we were overdosed on one-hit wonders, perms and synths.  I'm not going to go through the songs to try and justify my cause.  Just buy the album!  And send this review to 10 of your friends.  If you don't sent it to anyone, you won't have 10 years of bad luck, but you'll deprive your friends of this album, which is a crime in itself.

 

2

The Beatles

"White Album"

The Beatles

[1968]

 

 

I have always considered Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band to be the most overrated of all Beatles albums.  I guess I can't appreciate what kind of impact these albums had, because they were released in 1966 and 1967, and I was born in 1979.  Revolver is constantly topping polls as being not only the greatest Beatles album of all time, but the greatest album of all time.  And Sgt. Pepper's is always just falling behind.

I have always considered this double album, released in 1968, to be the Beatles' masterpiece.  There's a certain degree of irony here, because The Beatles were hardly a collaborative unit by this stage.  John was getting confused because he was growing hair in all sorts of unusual places.  Paul was jealous that his facial hair never quite looked as good as John's.  George was taking this whole Indian thing way too far.  And Ringo, well you can't blame the guy for just being himself.

Yes somehow, with all the fighting and copious amounts of drug taking, these four lads from Liverpool released this work of utter genius.  The plain white cover does no justice for the beauty that lies within this 90 minutes of music.  Many bands find it hard to sustain perfection over an entire album.  The Beatles managed to sustain it over a double album of 30 songs.

I could do a track-by-track review of these 30 songs, but not even that would give this album justice.  Buy it, listen to it, and be blown away.  This is complete aural brilliance.

 

3

Blonde On Blonde

Bob Dylan

[1966]

 

 

Robert Allen Zimmerman is a living legend, and this double album release in 1966 is not only his greatest album, but one of the greatest albums released by any artist in the history of music.  He has released many brilliant albums in 5 decade career, but in my opinion none has topped this album of lyrical and musical prowess.

It's hard to describe exactly what I love about this album.  It's the vibe, man.  Dylan called it the thin, wild mercury sound.  I just call it a vibe.  Take the opening verse of "One of us must know".  "I didn't mean to treat you soooo baaaaad...You shouldn't take it so perrrrrsonal...I didn't mean to make you soooo saaaad....You just happened to be there, that's all".  In the wrong hands, this would come across as sentimental drivel (to quote a Radiohead song).  But when Bobby sings it, you believe every word!  The longing in his voice...the passion.

This album is full of moments like that.  The barroom vibe of the piano at the start of "Temporary like achilles".  The beautiful intro to "4th time around" with the finger-picked chords and harmonica finally giving way to Bobby's longing vocals.  The perfectly constructed ditty "I want you" - just try not tapping your knee this one, just try - I DARE you!  Then there are the songs which showed Bobby's warped sense of humour - opener "Rainy day women nos 12 & 35" (everybody must get stoned!), "Leopard-skin pill-box hat" - what IS he singing about?  Do we really care when the music rocks this much?  What about epics?  Yep, we have them as well.  "Visions of Johanna", "Stuck inside of mobile with the Memphis blues again" (and what kind of song title is that anyway?), and the closer "Sad eyed lady of the lowlands", which took up an ENTIRE side of the original vinyl.  None of these songs, even the 11 minute closer, outstay their welcome.

I could go on this way about every song on this album, but I won't.  Let me just say that every song on this album leaves me wanting...no, it leaves me CRAVING more.  Craving - that's not a word you see very often in album reviews, is it?  But Blonde on blonde is one of the few albums that I CRAVE.  Granted, I sometimes have to be in the right mood to listen to it, but when I'm in the zone, nothing quite hits the spot like this one.

And honestly, has anyone ever looked cooler than Bobby does on the cover?

 

4

(What's The Story) Morning Glory?

Oasis

[1996]

 

 

Yes, I know the Gallagher's are arrogant bastards.  I even saw them in concert and discovered that they have the combined personality of a dead goldfish.  But with music like this, who cares?

It's pretty popular in this day and age to dislike Oasis.  Robbie Williams has turned it into an art form.  But there's no denying that Noel Gallagher can write a tune like no other.  And Liam turns his big brother's songs into instant classics.  Bonehead, Guigsy and Whitey add their own touches, but when it comes down to it, Oasis is a family business.

This album runs like a greatest hits album.  Every song is an instant classic.  First there's the hits (count them, all six of them).  "Wonderwall", "Don't look back in anger", "Morning glory", "Champagne supernova", "Roll with it", "Some might say".  All classic singalongs - all pub jukebox staples.  This leaves only six tracks.  There's two unnamed instrumentals, just so we don't overdose on the brilliant vocals.  The remaining songs "Hello", "Hey now!", "Cast no shadow" and "She's electric" could very easily be hits, if Oasis chose to release them.

It's only been downhill for Oasis since this album.  Their arrogance reached an all-time high after this album (and its singles) became chart successes.  Noel wished AIDS upon Damon Albarn from Blur.  Critics ripped through their followup overlong (and underrated) album "Be here now".  They released their worst album "Standing on the shoulder of giants".  Heathen chemistry was a return to form only relative to the 2 albums before it, but it was still in a different ballpark to their first 2 albums.

But this album remains a testimony to the great band that Oasis were, and may never be again.

 

5

London Calling

The Clash

[1979]

 

 

I have always gone against the popular critical outlook when it comes to double albums by big bands.  Many fans and critics, for instance, argued that The White Album would have been better if it were released as a single album.  "Sacrilegious!"  I say.  I can't think of many examples where I prefer a single album by a band who has released a double album.  The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones, The Clash.  Best albums?  White Album, Blonde On Blonde, Exile On Main St., London Calling (respectively).  All killer no filler?  Well, no.  All of these albums have filler, albeit surprisingly little in most cases.  Mostly, however, the filler simply adds to the charm of these brilliant albums.  Double albums gave artists the much needed breathing space that they didn't have with LPs, allowing them to experiment a little and dip their toes into musical waters they wouldn't normally swim in within the confines of a single LP.  Even if a song doesn't work on a double album, the listener can relax, knowing that there's "plenty more when that came from".

London Calling is a very unique double album as it has surprisingly little filler.  The Clash took a big risk with this album, releasing a 19-track 65-minute album that went completely against the punk roots of their previous two albums. This album encompasses a sprawling array of musical genres - there's jazz ("Jimmy jazz"), rockabilly ("Brand new cadillac"), ska ("Hateful", "Rudie can't fail", "Wrong 'em boyo"), reggae ("The guns of Brixton"), pop ("Train in vain", "Spanish bombs", "Lost in the supermarket"), punk ("London calling", "Clampdown", "Death or glory", "Koka kola") and even an epic tale of deceit ("The card cheat").  Yes, this album has it ALL.  And unlike their extremely patchy follow up "Sandinista", it ALL works.

The 8-song run from "Jimmy Jazz" to "The guns of Brixton" is one of the greatest sequences of music ever released.  Classics, the lot of them.  The tunes!  The lyrics!  The energy!  The passion!  On most of the songs on this album, it sounds like these guys are simply having a hell of a lot of fun trying out new stuff.  It's like they had all this creative energy bottled up and they exploded this energy on to four sides of vinyl.

All killer no filler?  Sure is.  And 65 minutes of it to boot!

 

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