Thursday, 30 September 2004

Top 10 Years For Album Releases - #9

And here we are at position 9 in my top 10 favourite years for music releases. I hope you enjoyed reading my last post discussing the controversial year that was 2003. I have a feeling that Pete isn't a big fan of Australian Idol, not sure where I got it from, but there were some subtle references in his reply to my last post.

And without further ado...I will now introduce my #9 favourite year.

#9: 1968

Yes, it's certainly a world away from 2003. And many will ask, why 1968? The 60's were certainly a brilliant decade for musical innovation, so what makes 1968 different to any other year?

For a start, The Beatles (a band who practically defined the 60's) released what I consider to be their masterpiece, their self-titled double album The Beatles (commonly known as "The White Album"). Let me just say this - this album alone is enough to make 1968 one of the greatest years in popular music. The irony here being that the Beatles were hardly a collaborative unit by this stage of their career - and The Beatles plays like four solo albums over four sides of vinyl (as it was it the time). But what brilliant "solo" albums they are - rarely have I heard such an diverse collection of simply amazing songs. I could write about this album for the whole post, but I won't. Instead, I will briefly discuss some of the other masterpieces of this year.

Dusty Springfield, probably the greatest female vocalist of all time (even better than Aretha Franklin in my sure-to-be-controversial opinion), released her masterpiece Dusty in Memphis in 1968. Obviously Dusty's voice is the drawcard to this superb album, but credit must also go to the producer Jerry Wexler who provided the vibe and the perfect mix of vocals and instrumentation which allows this album to reach the heights it does. Dusty was not a songwriter, and normally I am against albums where the singer just rolls off covers, takes the money and runs. So an album of covers has to be something special for me to call it a masterpiece. This album includes one of Dusty's hits, Son of a preacher man, made famous from its inclusion in the 1994 movie Pulp Fiction. Well that brilliant song is merely the cherry on top of this delicious album. Just listen to this album and melt.

Do you remember The Zombies? No, I'm not talking about a horror movie. It's a band who were pretty much considered one hit wonders in the sixties. Or so the common misconception goes. Their biggest hit was She's not there, released in the early 60's. They also had a posthumous hit, Time of the season, released in 1968. You'll know this song - it's the one that's playing when Austin is strutting his moves on the dance floor in the first Austin Powers movie. Anyway, I want to clear up this common misconception that these guys were one or two hit wonders - they weren't! They released a brilliant album called Odessey and Oracle [sic] -- and it was released in 1968! Why this album wasn't a smash hit I will never fully understand, because it's a masterpiece of an album. Just as good as Sgt Peppers (in fact, better) but with none of the acclaim! Sure, it may sound a bit dated by today's standards, but there are more moments of melodic beauty on this album than on practically any album I have heard.

Well there you go - 3 masterpieces which elevate 1968 to classic status. But as a certain man once said on an ad offering dodgy merchandise -- there's more! Some other excellent albums that were released in 1968:
  • The Small Faces - Ogden's nut gone flake (The first side is full of great late 60's rock/pop songs, the second side is a concept suite about a guy named Happiness Stan who goes on an adventure to find the missing half of the moon. Yes kiddies, drugs are bad mmmkay)
  • Jimi Hendrix - Electric ladyland (after many years of trying to decide what his best album is, this one has officially taken the cake. It's his bluesiest album, and it just has a fantastic relaxed vibe to it. It's like a big jam session which is simply out of this world)
  • Johnny Cash - At Folsom Prison (while not being a big country music fan, this is a very unique album. Where else can you hear a musician entertaining a bunch of cons who scream and clap when he sings a line like "I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die"?)
  • Leonard Cohen - Songs of Leonard Cohen (while not my favourite Leonard Cohen album -- it can be a tad too depressing at times -- this was his first album, and it deserves an honourable mention for bringing this great singer/songwriter to the attention of the world)
  • The Band - Music from big pink (while their true brilliance wouldn't shine through until their eponymous 1969 album, this is where they broke free from simply being Bob Dylan's backing band to forge a sound of their own. And it contains one of their biggest hits in The weight)
  • Bob Dylan - John Wesley Harding (one of the most humourous and character-driven albums Bob ever released. Contains All along the watchtower, made famous by Jimi Hendrix when he included it on his Electric ladyland album of the same year)
  • Simon & Garfunkel - Bookends (a solid album - the first half is a concept suite with one of their greatests songs America on it, the second half is more a collection of singles, including Mrs Robinson)
  • Frank Zappa - We're only in it for the money (this album is considered by many to be his masterpiece. It's a very humourous album which is unfortunately pretty dated now. The first half of the album is basically a hippie bagging fest, you have to hear it...)
  • The Doors - Waiting for the sun (arguably their most psychedelic acid-influenced album. Many choice cuts on this one including Love street and Spanish caravan. Also includes probably their most commercial song Hello, I love you)
And finally some other albums that were released this year which aren't my favourites but deserve a mention:
  • The Kinks - The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society (wow, that title is a mouthful. This is their concept album but is a bit too "British" for my liking. I'm not sure what it is about it, but I feel like I need to eat an english muffin and have a cup of tea after listening to this album)
  • The Rolling Stones - Beggar's banquet (the first of their run of four critically acclaimed albums - followed by Let it bleed, Sticky fingers and Exile on Main St., which I consider to be their best album. This is a solid album, and includes their hits Sympathy for the devil and Street fighting man)
  • Aretha Franklin - Lady soul (I prefer her 1967 album I never loved a man [insert gay joke here] but this is still a very solid album from the reknowned Queen of Soul)
  • Van Morrison - Astral weeks (Some people's jaws will drop that this critically acclaimed album only gets an honourable mention. Well it just doesn't cut the mustard for me. I mean it's a solid album, and has a great vibe throughout, and very interesting stream-of-consciousness lyrics, but in terms of listenability I can't go past his 1970 album Moondance)
  • Byrds - The Notorious Byrd Brothers (I can understand that these guys would have been pretty influential in the 60's, but their music hasn't dated incredibly well. Some choice cuts can be found on this album, but I'd never consider it a favourite from the era)
  • Captain Beefheart - Strictly personal (Nope...don't get this one. I think I even prefer Trout mask replica to this one. Maybe it'll grow on me one day)
And that's 1968 in a nutshell!

Wednesday, 29 September 2004

Top 10 Years For Album Releases - #10

There hasn't been a post in a while, so I figured it's time to write something.

Over the next 10 posts, I am going to comment a little bit about my favourite 10 years for album releases. In each post, I will discuss a little bit about the year in question, describe some of the key releases of the year, some of the surprises, and the disappointments.

I hope that these posts will be controversial and I encourage anyone to reply to them with their thoughts, whether they agree, disagree, or just wanna say wassup.

Anyway, without further ado...let's start the list. I will start with my tenth favourite year, and work to number one...just to keep up the suspense :-)

#10: 2003

This was a very controversial year for music, with EMI releasing its despicable Copy Control technology on to the world. It was the first year where I ever had to deny myself the pleasure of buying a new album by an artist I love, simply because they were on the EMI record label. Many of the albums I managed to source by other means (e.g. buying the non-CC version of the album off Ebay), but many albums from this year I still really really want but can't get because of EMI's dreaded technology. Sleepy Jackson's brilliant album Lovers is one such example of this.

Anyway, enough ranting about Copy Control. If I was to sum of 2003 in a nutshell, I would describe it as the year where many great bands and artists released rock solid albums, in many cases returns to form. Some examples of great albums by great artists released in 2003:
  • Ben Harper - Diamonds on the inside
  • Blur - Think tank
  • Super Furry Animals - Phantom power
  • Radiohead - Hail to the thief
  • Belle & Sebastian - Dear catastrophe waitress a lesser extent - The Strokes "Room on fire". A good, solid album, but I can't see myself bundling it with the brilliant albums listed above. If anything, the Strokes album really surprised people because many were expecting a sophomore slump from this overhyped New York band, and the fact they managed to avoid such a slump impressed a lot of people, including myself.

The 5 albums I just listed above have something in common. They are all extremely solid, often brilliant albums by artists who have been around for a while, and on the albums above reached a point of artistic maturity where they combined the best parts of their prior albums, filtered out the self-indulgence, and simply played to their absolute strengths.

In many cases, there were some dramatic reinventions - Dear Catastrophe Waitress was Belle & Sebastian's first real "pop" album where they strayed from their melancholic roots, albeit in a brilliant way that redefined who they were and where they were heading.

In some other cases, like on Hail to the thief and Think tank, Radiohead and Blur respectively cut a lot of the self-indulgent crap that had plagued much of their prior 2 albums (Kid A & Amnesiac, and Blur and 13), and managed to combine the best bits from the early part of their career with the best bits from the more experimental eras, into solid and most importantly very listenable albums. I mean, honestly, it's all good and well to say you like a song like Pull/pulk revolving doors from Amnesiac, but when was the last time you actually listened to it?

There were also 2 artists I discovered in 2003. One was American singer/songwriter Kelley Stoltz, whose low key sophomore release Antique glow album acquired a bit of a cult following, making it to the top of many best albums of the year lists. I actually bought this one after reading a 5-star review of in The Age which intrigued me enough to fork out $25 for it at Raoul Records in St Kilda without having heard a single song on it (it wasn't available in many shops at that point). And it's a great album...I highly recommend seeking it out (or alternatively getting an "offsite backup" off me ;-)

My other discovery in 2003 was the Milwaukee quartet The Shins. Their second album Chutes too narrow was released in 2003, and it has quickly become one of my favourite albums of the year, probably cracking the top 5 now. Soon after I purchased their much lauded debut Oh, inverted world, but that album has never quite done it for me as much as Chutes. If you are a fan of mellow indie folk music with subtle melodies that shine through on repeated listens, and moments of absolute lyrical and goose-bumply brilliance (did I just make that word up?), I highly recommend this album.

One of the most critically acclaimed albums of 2003 was Elephant by The White Stripes. I bought it amidst all the hype, and to this day (after many many listens), I still cannot understand what the big deal is. There's no denying that there are some great tracks on this album, but it's also patchy as hell (does anyone really like the cover of the Dusty Springfield hit I just don't know what to do with myself)? Personally, I much prefer their previous album, White blood cells.

Besides Elephant, these were the biggest disappointments for me in 2003:
  • Jack Johnson - On and on (too much like his debut Brushfire fairytales to justify having it in the collection)
  • The Polyphonic Spree - The beginning stages of... (the 36 minute self-indulgent crap that is track 10 kills this album for me)
  • Muse - Absolution (a decent album, but I much prefer their 2nd album Origin of symmetry)
  • Something For Kate - The official fiction (maybe I'm being unfair here, it's a very decent album. But there's no denying that it's a disappointment after the far superior Echolalia)
  • Lucksmiths - Naturaliste (definitely not as good as Why that doesn't surprise me, which I don't actually have, but have heard and will purchase one day - thanks Pete!)
And finally, the only albums that I have from 2003 which I haven't mentioned yet, and some brief commentary:
  • The Coral - Magic & Medicine (got this for a bargain price of $5, and was expecting it to be crap, but it's actually a pretty solid album and a nice subtle evolution over their debut. Personally, I don't think they have many albums left in them)
  • Powderfinger - Vulture street (solid rock album from this very popular Brisbane band, decent effort that doesn't hit the heights of Internationalist but is still very enjoyable)
  • Elbow - Cast of thousands (not one of my absolute favourites from the year, but a lot better than their debut Asleep in the back. Here's hoping that their 3rd album will be their masterpiece)
  • Joe Strummer - Streetcore (the final album from the former Clash frontman who died in December 2002. Some lyrics are very poignant in hindsight - the final track Silver & gold has the lyric "I want to do everything silver and gold / and I've got to hurry before I get too old")
  • Damien Rice - O (bought this on the recommendation from a friend - quite a stunningly beautiful album, but can get a bit whiney in parts)
And that pretty much sums up 2003 (phew...). A great year for music, and looking like it's in much better shape than 2004 at the moment. Here's hoping that Tom Waits and the late Elliott Smith will help to lift 2004's standard a bit when their new albums are released in October.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, 20 September 2004

Back to work :-(

Why is it so hard to go back to work after a weekend?

Sooooooo booooooooooooored.

Sunday, 19 September 2004

Bairnsdale Road Trip: 2004

Well it was a very enjoyable weekend.

Pete ended up making an appearance on Saturday at about 11am, and stayed until early Sunday morning. You tell those microscopic virii who is boss Pete! Nah seriously, it was great that you could come along.

In summary, here's what we got up to over the weekend:

  • Stayed in a motel in Bairnsdale run by Harold Bishop from Neighbours. Well no, it wasn't Harold Bishop. It didn't even look like him. But he had similar personality traits to Mr Bishop, and taught us well in the ways of luggage stowage within a motel room.
  • Went to a pub for dinner on Friday night where we enjoyed steaks and chicken parmigarmas, almost getting into fisticuffs with the people who's table we had inadvertantly "stolen" (okay...slight exaggeration/poetic license used here).
  • Enjoyed various gourmet breakfast treats including vegemite on toast, pancakes with maple syrup and icecream, omelettes, eggs & bacon & sausages, raisin toast, muffins and coffees/hot chocolates of various kinds.
  • Several of us purchased $10 CDs from Bairnsdale including REM "Automatic for the people", Bob Dylan "Blonde on blonde" and Joni Mitchell "Blue".
  • Learnt the true meaning of the words acronym, irony and tetchy.
  • Visited an Aboriginal cave (can't remember the exact name...but Duffman should know) about 40 minutes from Bairnsdale - it was truly a beautiful place that will hopefully inspire Brett in his future writing endeavours.
  • Brushed up on our TV sitcom theme song knowledge and studied a lot of interesting pictorial and written literature. I'm pretty sure that the theme song to O.C. will be pretty familiar to most of us by next year's road trip.
  • Played mini golf in Bairnsdale. Well done to the champion Duffman (aka Wally Raffles) who beat Brettles by the skin of his teeth. Condolences to Andy and Jerome who let the side down. Jerome also gave his best "Angry Dad" impersonation during the game.
  • Watched Belle & Sebastian host Rage on Saturday night.
  • Stopped by at the Yarragon market on the way home, where Andy bought a garden plaque for his mother ( sweet).
  • Several members of the posse made fools of themself during the roadtrip. But what's new? Some notable incidents include the designated driver almost getting his car bogged when stopping outside Gumbaya Park on the way to Bairnsdale, and a certain young man (who I won't mention by name) walkering (ahem...I mean walking) into a McDonalds sign on Sunday morning.
  • Consumed a lot of Coopers Sparking Ale and a little bit of Wild Turkey Bourbon.
  • Consumed a lot of food which is going to seriously affect how we look in speedos this summer. Ewwwwww there's an image I don't want.
  • Talked a lot crap (what's new?)
Now we look forward to Duffman's powerpoint presentation (and presentation of it at the soon to be annual slide night).

I'll end with a quote from one of my favourite pieces of 20th century literature:

Now, the world don't move to the beat of just one drum,
What might be right for you, may not be right for some.
A man is born, he's a man of means.
Then along come two, they got nothing but their jeans.

But they got, Diff'rent Strokes.
It takes, Diff'rent Strokes.
It takes, Diff'rent Strokes to move the world.

Everybody's got a special kind of story
Everybody finds a way to shine,
It don't matter that you got not alot
So what,
They'll have theirs, and you'll have yours, and I'll have mine.
And together we'll be fine....

Because it takes, Diff'rent Strokes to move the world.
Yes it does.
It takes, Diff'rent Strokes to move the world.

Hmmm....I think there's something in that for all of us.
Whatchya talkin' about Willis?

Thursday, 16 September 2004

Here's to Pete getting better

Well it's a long shot, but I hope this post somehow influences you in getting better Pete!

The road trip won't be the same without you :-(

Tuesday, 14 September 2004

Classic Simpsons Quote

Marge: Have you noticed something about Bart?
Homer: New glasses?
Marge: No. It seems like something could be troubling him.
Homer: Probably misses his old glasses.

Sunday, 12 September 2004

Beatles Top 10 Lists - Part 1

If only David Letterman did lists like this...I would have probably watched it more often.

The top 10 longest Beatles songs:
  1. Revolution 9 [8:22]
  2. I want you (She's so heavy) [7:47]
  3. Hey Jude [7:08]
  4. It's all too much [6:28]
  5. A day in the life [5:33]
  6. Within you without you [5:05]
  7. While my guitar gently weeps [4:45]
  8. I am the walrus [4:37]
  9. Helter skelter [4:29]
  10. Come together [4:20]
Some interesting tidbits about this:
  • All of the top 10 longest songs are from the last part of their career (i.e. Sgt Peppers onwards)
  • You have to go to their 39th (!) longest song before you get to one from their earlier part of their career. And that song is only 3:22 (You won't see me from Rubber Soul)
  • The Beatles were a very prolific band (they released 226 songs between 1962 and 1970 - not including their Anthology releases or live recordings). For a band who released this many songs, it's amazing that they only have six songs longer than five minutes.
  • One of their most successful singles was Hey Jude, and it's their 3rd longest song. [On a side note, I think it was Bob Dylan who broke the time barrier for singles when he released Like a Rolling Stone, at a whopping six minutes and thirteen seconds. This was unthinkable in 1965.]
The top 10 shortest Beatles songs:

  1. Her majesty [0:23]
  2. Maggie Mae [0:40]
  3. Dig it [0:50]
  4. Wild honey pie [0:52]
  5. Mean Mr. Mustard [1:06]
  6. Polythene Pam [1:12]
  7. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (reprise) [1:18]
  8. Golden slumbers [1:31]
  9. Carry that weight [1:36]
  10. Why don't we do it in the road? [1:41]
Some interesting tidbits about this:

  • Half of the top 10 are from the Beatles' last recorded album, Abbey Road. I'm sure this was helped by the fact that the 2nd side of this album had a medley of unfinished songs on it.
  • The remaining 5 in the top 10 are, like the top 10 longest songs, from the latter part of their career. But unlike the longest songs, you only have to go to the 11th shortest song (I'll cry instead at 1:44) to get to their early part of their career.
What about albums? I hear you cry...

Without further ado, I will now introduce the top 5 longest Beatles albums , not including compilations or soundtracks :

  1. The Beatles ("White album") [93:21]*
  2. Abbey Road [47:16]
  3. Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band [39:50]
  4. Rubber Soul [35:39]
  5. Let It Be [35:04]
*Double album

Some interesting tidbits about this:

  • The Beatles only released one double album during their career, but what an album it is.
  • The astute Beatles fan may notice the absence of Magical Mystery Tour, which should have taken fourth position at 36:45. As much as this will infuriate Brett, Magical Mystery Tour is not an album. The first half is a soundtrack from the movie of the same name and the 2nd half is a collection of (brilliant) singles and B-sides from 1967.
And the 5 shortest Beatles albums:

  1. A Hard Day's Night [30:24]
  2. Please Please Me [32:39]
  3. With The Beatles [33:16]
  4. Beatles For Sale [34:06]
  5. Help! [34:15]
Hmm...I think there's something in that for all of us.

Chocolate Chip Biscuits Fled Crime Scene


At 4:58pm Eastern Standard Time, 2 chocolate chip biscuits held up a bank in Melbourne's west today. Luckily, nobody was injured.

Not all is lost - a witness allegedly saw the number plate of the car they drove away in.

The Cookie Police are currently investigating.

Lenny & Carl

Did anyone see the Simpsons last week? Featured Ms K's/Skinner's (abandoned) wedding.
A couple of relevant moments -- Barry Duffman appearing at Ms. K's Hen's night (as a "male dancer," no less), and doing a pelvic thrust (Oh Yeah!) while seated.
Another scene reminded me of two people (let's call them J and A) -- Lenny was hassling Carl because he always has to ask before receiving a back rub. Hmmm... As Mike Moore once said, "Wow! International Story Coordinator!"

Absolute useless musical trivia #45367

Here's the 10 shortest song titles in my collection as of the date of this post:
  1. M - The Cure (from Seventeen Seconds)
  2. Be - Lenny Kravitz (from Let Love Rule)
  3. Go - Pearl Jam (from Vs.)
  4. UR - Alanis Morissette (from Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie - if only the album title was that short!)
  5. Za - Supergrass (from Life On Other Planets)
  6. LA - Elliott Smith (from Figure 8)
  7. It - Prince (from Sign 'O' The Times)
  8. 39 - The Cure (from Bloodflowers)
  9. 45 - Elvis Costello (from When I Was Cruel)
  10. As - Stevie Wonder (from Songs In The Key Of Life)
And the 10 longest...well before I go into that, allow me to set some ground rules. Many artists (including Tom Waits and many others) like using parentheses in song titles to indicate an alternate title, making titles very long (because it's really 2 titles posing as 1). So the rule I am using for the 10 longest album titles is that it cannot contain any parentheses. And if a song on an album is purposefully given multiple titles (whether it's a montage of multiple songs, or just given multiple titles for shits and giggles), it is also disqualified. Anyway...on with the list:
  1. Maybe the people would be the times or between Clark and Hilldale - Love (from Forever Changes).
  2. Sigmund Freud's impersonation of Albert Einstein in America - Randy Newman (from Little Criminals).
  3. Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayit'sworldwouldfallapart - Manic Street Preachers (from The Holy Bible).
  4. Everybody's got something to hide except me and my monkey - The Beatles (from The Beatles aka The White Album)
  5. (What's so funny 'bout) peace, love and understanding? - Elvis Costello (from Armed Forces).
  6. Final count of the collision between us and the damned - Public Enemy (from Fear Of A Black Planet)
  7. Guy who got a headache and accidently saves the world - Flaming Lips (from Clouds Taste Metallic)
  8. Feeding the birds and hoping for something in return - Something For Kate (from Echolalia)
  9. Stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis blues again - Bob Dylan (from Blonde On Blonde)
  10. Psychiatric explorations of the fetus with needles - Flaming Lips (from Clouds Taste Metallic)

Brace yourself for many other items of useless musical trivia in future posts!

Ahhh eBay... how can I possibly stay mad at you?

Wanna know what I'm selling on Ebay at the moment?


Well I'm gonna tell you anyway...

Check out what I'm selling right now.

Brett McBean's website

Since my good mate Brett decided to reply to one of my posts on here (being the first contributor to this blog besides yours truly), I thought I'd put in a plug for his website:

Brett's an aspiring young horror writer who has already has an excellent novel published - "The Last Motel". Check out his website for more details.

Saturday, 11 September 2004

Trout Mask Replica

Out of all the 650+ CDs that I own...this 1969 album by Captain Beefheart is definitely the weirdest one I own.

Just check out the cover:

This is an avant-garde album which supposedly takes many listens to start appreciating. The first listen will undoubtedly astound you, with guitars, drums and bass playing independantly of each other, with no respect to time signatures or even playing in the correct key.

Apparently (and this is where it gets weird) this is all an illusion. Like one of those magic eye pictures where the picture "pops" out at you after staring at it for long enough, the brilliance of this album is supposed to "appear" after giving it enough listens. Ahhh well...those magic eye picture never worked for me, so I'm not sure this will...but I'll keep on giving it a go :-)

After starting to appreciate jazz a bit more, this album doesn't sound as weird as on my first listen, but I still haven't gotten to the stage where I say I love (or even like) this album.

There is no doubting that this is a unique album in the history of rock, so it at least deserves credit for that. And there are some great songs on it: "Moonlight on Vermont" is a brilliant blues song and probably one of the most "normal" tracks on the album (and that's saying a lot). "China pig" is a great slice of raw delta blues. "The blimp (mousetrapreplica)" is hilarious.

I could continue but I won't. Give this a listen. Maybe it'll blow you away. I hope it does the same for me one day.

Some great music websites

I'm a bit of a music geek.

I've spent more money in CDs in the last year than I have on petrol for my car.

Here's a few cool music websites.

Stylus Magazine has some great lists and reviews, with content changing daily.

Pitchfork Media is a pretty popular website with some great content, even if I don't agree with a lot of their reviews.

And who can forget the All Music Guide? Granted, it hasn't been as good since they prettied it up and updated it (it may look nicer but they have definitely sacrified usability). But in terms of a musical reference site, nothing beats it for the breadth of information.

Welcome to my blog

Hello and welcome to my blog.

Watch this space for more interesting posts.

Hope to see you back soon!