Monday, December 20, 2010

#7/1000: Nancy Sinatra "Boots" (1966)

Few times in my life have I ever been as enraged as I was when I read the iTunes reviewer's disgusting words about this album. His pitiful half-ass excuse for an opinion read: "Unexceptional debut album built around "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'" and covers of contemporary rock and pop hits, with a couple of other Lee Hazlewood songs." I seriously doubt this turd even listened to any of the songs past the 30-second preview mark before scribbling down his whopping sentence of a review; I mean, that Nickelback isn't gonna listen to itself, ya know!? This is an absolutely incredible piece of work. It's very apparent that no one was holding a gun to Nancy's head saying, "Cover these songs, or else!!" There's some real soul here. Aside from her voice being sickeningly beautiful, it's dripping with love and respect for these already amazing songs. The music on the record is also amazing; the studio super group known as The Wrecking Crew worked with Hazelwood and backed Sinatra to help sculpt these gems. Covering pop songs while they were still fresh-outta-the-dryer was definitely not uncharted territory in the late '60s, but these selections were not cut from that same cloth. While mundane barely-altered versions were the norm in those days, Sinatra, Hazelwood and The Wrecking Crew did just the opposite on most of these songs. They created rich, vibrant, and barely-recognizable variations of these previously unmistakable hits. The Rolling Stones' own the writing credits to the first track on Boots, but Sinatra and friends take "As Tears Go By" to a new level making it one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard. The Beatles' "Day Tripper" has the next slot on the album; the rendition here is extremely similar to the original. The fun difference is that the guitar has been replaced by a horn section, while a stand-up bass, simple piano, and lively percussion pound out the accompanying music. "I Move Around," the first of the Lee Hazelwood originals on Boots, is an extremely impressive, deep, and somber cut. Nancy almost speaks rather than sings on the song, but triumphant trumpets and some wonderful backing vocals by Sinatra make this one of my favorites. Next comes a cute cover of Bob Dylan's "It Ain't Me Babe," followed by the jam "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'." Vance-Pockriss's "In My Room" is pounded out next and definitely holds the title for most epic track. The Knickerbockers' "Lies" is next, then Hazelwood's second original song "So Long, Babe" dazzles us. Beginning the wind-down of the record is a really great cover of The Statler Brothers' "Flowers On The Wall." Next to last on the album comes the lovely Rilo Kiley-ish "If He'd Love Me," then a jazzed-up version of The Beatles' "Run For Your Life" closes the whole thing out. There is no getting around the quality and strength of this record. It's just plain great - and so deserving of your time and attention.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

#6/1000: Radiohead "Amnesiac" (2001)

While most of my friends got into Radiohead via "The Bends" and pretty much everyone on earth got into them with "OK Computer," I wasn't properly introduced to them until this mind**** of an album. I remember feeling way behind everyone; I hadn't ever really been exposed to Radiohead since I grew up without MTV or VH1 (no cable in the sticks where my parents lived). So, I decided to fast-track-it and get "Amnesiac," the newest of their albums; I can honestly say that I've never been more confused by music. I had never heard anything like this before, I didn't know how to categorize it, and I sure as hell didn't know what to think about it. Most of my friends didn't really have an opinion of it yet and others just hated it. Thinking maybe it was just outside my realm of familiar genres, I let a friend of mine listen to it who was into electronic music, but he hated it; so, I couldn't even categorize it. I just didn't know what to make of this odd record, but I wasn't going to give up on it. A new part of my consciousness was fully realized with this album; a sense of knowing, despite not immediately liking what I was hearing, that I should keep listening to it until I almost made myself like it. Something else that was so perplexing, yet aesthetically pleasing, to me was the insanely scribbled artwork that filled the CD booklet. This artwork by Stanley Donwood and Thom Yorke, that actually won a Grammy, was so complimentary to the music and just plain awesome to thumb through - I still love looking at it. I listened to this album a lot from beginning to end for the next few months with a few songs starting to stand out such as "Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box," "You And Whose Army," "I Might Be Wrong," "Knives Out," and my favorite track "Life In A Glass House." Then one day, things started to make sense to my ears on some of the seemingly un-accessable (and almost frightening) tracks like "Pyramid Song," "Dollars & Cents," and "Like Spinning Plates." The ultimate payoff of my repetitive listening was definitely realizing the full perfection of the track that I had hated most of all on those initial listenings, "Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors;" what an incredible use of 4 minutes and 7 seconds. This album really taught me to not write-off music, or any art for that matter, that was strange and/or unpleasing at first and I am so grateful for that.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

#5/1000: The Beatles "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (1967)

Honestly, if you need to read a review to decide whether or not to give this album a listen, you have much bigger problems in your life than that decision. In this masterpiece, The Beatles somehow transcend their previous rock efforts and set the bar entirely too high for any other band around. The recording process was as eclectic as the cover, with over 700 hours of studio time devoted to making the most experimental and unique rock album at that time. This titan of an album has headed up numerous “Best Rock Album” charts and usually comes out on top as #1 on several. Thousands of reviews have been written in praise of this album, so all I’ll say is be sure you pick up the MONO version; it’s more rockin’ and honestly just sounds better.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

#4/1000: Dr. Dog "Easy Beat" (2005)

I'm not sure how most people do it, but I've always found all my music through suggestions and mainly exposure of my close friends' music collections and discoveries. We were like vultures around a fresh kill every time a new piece of music would come into our lives. I vividly remember when Dr. Dog fell onto our plates; not even the bones were left over.

My longtime friend and then roommate Brittney Maddox came home one afternoon beaming and, without a word, proceeded to plug a burnt CD into our living room computer. My mind was instantly blown; I just could not wrap my head around what I was hearing. These beautifully-written harshly-recorded pop songs sounded like they had oozed out of the Beatles' brains in the middle of the night and ended up here decades later. She had found 3 of their songs from who-knows-where ("The World May Never Know," "Oh No," and an alternate version of "Wake Up") and we listened to them excessively until we finally got this full 9 song album. Two weeks later, in fully-obsessed mode, we went and saw them live in Dallas at Trees in Deep Ellum, had a few too many, and all awkwardly professed our love to them after their set while we collectively watched Architecture In Helsinki rip it up on stage. There have only been a few times in my life where I instantly like an entire album the first listen; Easy Beat achieved that and has only gotten better each time. This gorgeously unpolished record deserves your attention; don't keep it waiting!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

#3/1000: Lou Reed "Transformer" (1972)

Few albums ever have the stuff to make me stand up and proclaim, "5 Stars!" Lou Reed's second solo album "Transformer" is one, however, that stands up and proclaims it for itself. With The Velvet Underground days already 2 years behind him, Reed enlisted the the help of Mick Ronson and David Bowie (both of whom cited Lou and the VU as heavy influences) to co-produce the 11 darkly-lit pop gems that make up this stellar album. It's always been mind-blowing to me that out of all the catchy, clever, and melodic songs this record has to offer, "Walk On The Wild Side" was the one chosen as the first single! I'm sure most people had to listen to the lyrics a few times before they could really believe what they were hearing was actually playing on the radio. Despite the grim subject matter and lewd lyrics, the song has stayed a staple on classic rock stations and remains the forerunner in people's minds when they hear the name Lou Reed.

The album starts out (yeah, that was just an introduction) with the very basic Velvet Underground-type repetitive droning riff through the entirety of the opener "Vicious." The eyebrow-raiser here, though, is how bright, accessible, and enjoyable the music is. I'm a huge fan of the VU, but very few of their songs make me wanna dance around in my socks on my living room floor. Things quickly get serious on the second track "Andy's Chest;" like, get ready to sway and sing along with the ba-da-baa's. The mood cools off a little with the somber and beautiful "Perfect Day," then picks right back up where "Vicious" left off with the dancier "Hangin' Round." "Walk On The Wild Side" is next, followed by the awesome tuba-accompanied "Make Up," one of my favorites from the record. There are strong whiffs of David Bowie throughout the album, but none more potentate than on "Satellite of Love;" an earlier Velvet Underground b-side from "Loaded." Bowie pumped some serious production and vocal magic into this already strong song. "Wagon Wheel" is the perfect follow-up with it's finger-snapping rhythm and swaggering guitars and percussion. "New York Telephone Conversation" (another unused VU song) is a light romp followed by what I consider to be the weakest track "I'm So Free." The album ends on a perfect note with the drunken "Goodnight Ladies;" Reed puts on his lounge singer persona and is backed by some soft piano work, a bouncy tuba, crisp hi-hats and rimshots, and just a handful of brass and woodwinds. This album is absolutely essential to anyone who loves music - period. I initially discovered it when skimming through a "Top 100/500/whatever" list nearly a decade ago; hopefully this can help you discover it the same way right now.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

#2/1000: Hot Hot Heat "Knock Knock Knock" EP (2002)

My sister and I used to fight over this CD constantly. Not only did it rock ridiculously hard, but it was probably the coolest CD we'd ever seen since it was clear plastic around the outer inch rim of the disc.
Gimmick aside, though, it's definitely incredible enough to easily make it onto this list despite it's short running time. Steve Bay's voice is at it's most golden here with all-out open-throat barks and cries that feel so fresh and original. The energy on this EP seems infinite (the fact that there's only five songs helps) and I know that that energy is what keeps me coming back. "Le Le Low" kicks off the soiree the right way and let's you know that Steve can and will do anything with his voice that he pleases while the band cranks out some really impressive music. "5 Times Out of 100" melts my face so good while "Have A Good Sleep" and "Touch You Touch Me" help build up to the crown jewel. The EP ends on a platinum note with the epic "More For Show;" I'd say it's probably my favorite of all their songs. Do yourselves a favor and take 17 minutes out of your life to change it.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The 1000 Albums You Should Own

So, my partner Jason Anders over at Fulle Circle has asked me to do a "1000 Albums" to compliment his "1000 Movies" compilation at; of course, I was ecstatic. I'll be doing the same random posting that he's doing with films - no rational order, just whatever I'm listening to and enjoying at the moment. He started at #1000 and I'll be starting at #1 (just so no one thinks this is a countdown - I would surely go insane trying to organize 1000 albums in order of preference.) So, here we go!!