A Year Of Listening

Exactly one year ago today, I decided to target an attention span that had been withered to a nub by Spotify, Pandora, and playlist/mixtape culture in general. Along the way, I had left The Album as a cultural object behind for the quick fix of the song, wrenching such gems as “Sweet Emotion” or “What We All Want” from the album masterpieces within which they reside. Further complicating things was that, for three years, I programmed and DJ-ed a weekly radio show where I cherry-picked songs as a matter of course. As of this time last year, I do not believe I had listened to an album in its entirety in at least five years.

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This was profoundly disturbing to me because, with few exceptions, I despise the machinery and culture of The Single. I grew up loving the LP, with its careful (in most cases) song sequencing, and the way it demanded an extended visitation of my attention, the way it allowed me to inhabit the consciousness of, say, a divorce-ravaged Marvin Gaye on “Here, My Dear,” or the traumatized protagonist of “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea.”

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So I set out to remedy my musical ADD. For a full year, there would be no playlists, no obsessively playing the same song 10 times in row (multiple relapses on this one), no “greatest hits”: I had to listen to albums in one sitting and, to keep myself disciplined, I had to mark the date, rate the record on a scale of 1 to 5, and jot down a note or two by way of a “review.” I did this 834 times in the past year. Approximately 80% of these records were ones I had either never heard before, or never sat through all the way.

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Some of what I discovered:

  • A love for Classic Country (1945-1975), particularly the Bakersfield variety
  • A reconciliation with vinyl, my first love
  • A marked distaste for any kind of genre “crossover”
  • That 1979-1985 was a bad era for music in general, particularly for artists who sought to “update” the sound that made them famous for the mirage of “New Wave” (in some cases, my reaction to these records was so violent that I not only removed the record from my collection, but from my house)
  • That the Chi-Lites were the absolute cream of the Philly Soul crop and could not make a bad album
  • That the Bee Gees may have been the most underrated pop group of all time
  • And many others

So, here it is, in alphabetical order: every record I have listened to in the past year:

Artist Album Year
13th Floor Elevators The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th Floor Elevators 1966
13th Floor Elevators Easter Everywhere 1967
4 Out Of 5 Doctors 4 Out Of 5 Doctors 1980
6 String Drag Roots Rock ‘n’ Roll 2015
68 Comeback A Bridge Too Fuckin’ Far 1998
A Band Of Bees Free The Bees 2004
Adverts Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts 1978
Aerosmith Toys In The Attic 1975
Aerosmith Rocks 1976
Aerosmith Aerosmith 1973
Aerosmith Draw The Line 1977
Aerosmith Get Your Wings 1974
Air Moon Safari 1998
Al Dexter Pistol Packin’ Mama (comp) N/A
Al Green Let’s Stay Together 1972
Al Green I’m Still In Love With You 1972
Al Green Gets Next To You 1971
Al Green Call Me (Come Back Home) 1973
Al Green Explores Your Mind 1974
Al Green Al Green Is Love 1975
Al Kooper I Stand Alone 1968
Al Kooper Easy Does It 1970
Al Stewart Past, Present And Future 1974
Alan Price This Price Is Right 1968
Alan Price Between Today And Yesterday 1974
Alan Price Alan Price 1977
Alan Price O Lucky Man! 1973
Alan Toussaint The Wild Sound Of New Orleans By Tousan 1958
Alex Chilton High Priest 1987
Alexander “Skip” Spence Oar 1969
Ann Peebles I Cant Stand the Rain 1974
Aretha Franklin I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You 1967
Aretha Franklin Aretha Now 1968
Arthur Conley Soul Directions 1968
Asleep At The Wheel Asleep At The Wheel 1974
Asleep At The Wheel Texas Gold 1975
Asleep At The Wheel A Tribute To Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys 1993
Asylum Choir Look Inside The Asylum Choir 1968
Barry White Stone Gon’ 1973
Bass Drum Of Death GB City 2011
Bee Gees Odessa 1969
Bee Gees Trafalgar 1971
Bee Gees Two Years On 1971
Bee Gees Mr. Natural 1974
Bee Gees Cucumber Castle 1970
Bee Gees Main Course 1975
Bee Gees 1st 1967
Benjamin Booker Benjamin Booker 2014
Bert Jansch Bert Jansch 1965
Bill Callahan Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle 2009
Bill Callahan Woke On A Whaleheart 2007
Bill Callahan Apocalypse 2011
Bill Fay Time Of The Last Persecution 1971
Bill Withers Still Bill 1972
Bill Withers Just As I Am 1971
Billie Holiday Lady In Satin 1958
Billy ‘Crash’ Craddock Still Thinkin’ About You 1975
Billy Joe Shaver Billy Joe Shaver 1982
Billy Preston Music Is My Life 1972
Black Sabbath Sabbath Bloody Sabbath 1973
Blood, Sweat & Tears Child Is The Father To The Man 1968
Blue Ash No More No Less 1973
Blue Cheer Vincebus Eruptum 1968
Blues Magoos Psychedelic Lollipop 1966
Boards Of Canada Music Has The Right To Children 1998
Bob Dylan Street-Legal 1978
Bob Dylan Slow Train Coming 1979
Bob Dylan & The Band The Basement Tapes Raw 2014
Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys For The Last Time 1973
Bob Wills & Tommy Duncan Hall Of Fame 2000
Bobby Bare Detroit City And Other Hits 1963
Bobby Whitlock Bobby Whitlock 1972
Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy I See A Darkness 1999
Booker T. & The M.G.s Green Onions 1962
Bootsy’s Rubber Band This Boot Is Made For Fonkin’ 1979
Bram Tchaikovsky Strange Man, Changed Man 1979
Brian Auger Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express 1971
Brian Eno & David Byrne My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts 1981
Brinsley Schwartz Nervous On The Road 1972
Brinsley Schwartz Despite It All 1970
Brinsley Schwartz Silver Pistol 1972
Buck Owens I’ve Got A Tiger By The Tail 1965
Buck Owens Buck Owens Sings Harlan Howard 1962
Buck Owens Buck Owens (Under Your Spell Again) 1961
Buck Owens You’re For Me 1961
Buck Owens Buck Owens Sings Tommy Collins 1963
Buck Owens Open Up Your Heart 1966
Buck Owens The Carnegie Hall Concert 1966
Buck Owens Roll Out The Red Carpet 1966
Buck Owens Together Again/My Heart Skips A Beat 1964
Buck Owens You’re For Me 1962
Buck Owens It Takes People Like You To Make People Like Me 1968
Buck Owens Dust On Mother’s Bible (Songs Of Faith & Religion) 1966
Buck Owens Ruby 1971
Buck Owens Your Tender Loving Care 1967
Buck Owens Before You Go/No One But You 1965
Buck Owens In Japan! 1967
Buddy Emmons Buddy Emmons Sings Bob Wills 1976
Buddy Emmons Steel Guitar 1975
Buffalo Springfield Buffalo Springfield Again 1967
Buffalo Springfield Buffalo Springfield 1966
Buffalo Springfield Last Time Around 1968
Byron Lee & The Dragonaires Wine Miss Tiny 1991
Caetano Veloso Caetano Veloso (A Little More Blue) 1971
Caetano Veloso Domingo 1967
Caetano Veloso Caetano Veloso (Tropicalia) 1968
Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band Safe As Milk 1967
Carl Perkins Blue Suede Shoes 1969
Carl Perkins My Kind Of Country 1973
Carl Smith Faded Love & Winter Roses 1969
Cedar Walton Piano Solos 1981
Charles Bradley No Time For Dreaming 2011
Charles Mingus New Tijuana Moods 1962
Charles Mingus The Black Saint & The Sinner Lady 1963
Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band Hot Heat & Sweet Groove 1967
Charley Pride The Country Way 1967
Charley Pride The Sensational Charley Pride 1969
Charlie Rich Original Hits & Midnight Demos 1985
Chet Atkins Guitar Country 1964
Chet Atkins Yestergroovin’ 1970
Chris Hillman Desert Rose 1984
Chris Hillman & Herb Petersen Bakersfield Bound 2006
Cisco Houston Cisco Houston 1965
Clifton Chenier Clifton Chenier & His Red Hot Louisiana Band 1977
Conway Twitty Linda On My Mind 1975
Conway Twitty You’ve Never Been This Far Before/Baby’s Gone 1973
Conway Twitty Hello Darlin’ 1970
Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man 1973
Country Gazette A Traitor In Our Midst! 1972
Crazy Horse Crazy Horse 1971
Cream Goodbye Cream 1969
Creedence Clearwater Revival Pendulum 1970
Curtis Mayfield Curtis 1970
Curtis Mayfield Super Fly 1972
Curtis Mayfield Roots 1971
Curtis Mayfield Got To Find A Way 1974
Dallas Frazier Singing My Songs 1970
D’Angelo Black Messiah 2015
Dave Davies AFL1-3603 1980
Dave Dudley Songs About The Working Man 1964
Dave Edmunds Rockpile 1972
Dave Edmunds Subtle As A Flying Mallet 1975
Dave Van Ronk Dave Van Ronk, Folksinger 1967
David Ackles American Gothic 1972
David Allan Coe Tattoo 1977
David Bowie Lodger 1979
David Essex Rock On 1973
David Johansen David Johansen 1978
David Lindley El Rayo-X 1981
David Lindley & El Rayo-X Win This Record 1982
David Ruffin My Whole World Ended 1969
Davy Graham The Guitar Player 1963
Davy Graham Folks, Blues And Beyond 1964
Diana Ross & The Supremes Love Child 1968
Dick Curless A Tombstone Every Mile 1973
Dillard & Clark The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark 1968
Doc & Merle Watson Two Days In November 1974
Doc Watson Southbound 1966
Don Gibson Don Gibson 1965
Don Gibson Girls, Guitar, and Gibson 1961
Don Gibson Hurtin’ Inside 1966
Don Gibson Sweet Dreams 1960
Don Reno Fastest Five Strings Alive 1994
Don Williams I Believe In You 1980
Donovan Sunshine Superman 1966
Donovan Catch The Wind 1965
Dottie West Dottie West Sings 1966
Doug Dillard Duelin’ Banjo 1973
Doug Sahm Groover’s Paradise 1974
Doug Sahm Hell Of A Spell 1980
Doug Sahm And Band Doug Sahm And Band 1973
Dr. Buzzards Original Savannah Band Dr. Buzzards Original Savannah Band 1976
Dr. Feelgood Malpractice 1975
Dr. Feelgood Sneakin’ Suspicion 1977
Dr. John Gris Gris 1968
Drive-By Truckers Southern Rock Opera 2001
Duke Ellington The Ellington Era: 1927-1940 1963
Dusty Springfield Dusty in Memphis 1969
Dwight Yoakam Buenas Noches From A Lonely Room 1988
Dwight Yoakam This Time 1993
Dwight Yoakam Guitars, Cadillacs Etc. Etc. 1986
Dwight Yoakam Hillbilly Deluxe 1987
Earth, Wind & Fire That’s The Way Of The World 1975
Earth, Wind & Fire Spirit 1976
Eddie Harris Instant Death 1971
Electric Light Orchestra A New World Record 1976
Elliott Smith From A Basement On The Hill 2004
Elton John Madman Across The Water 1971
Elton John Goodbye Yellow Brick Road 1973
Elton John Rock Of The Westies 1975
Elvis Costello Almost Blue 1981
Elvis Costello Taking Liberties 1980
Elvis Costello Trust 1981
Elvis Costello Imperial Bedroom 1982
Elvis Costello This Year’s Model 1978
Elvis Presley Elvis 1956
Elvis Presley From Elvis in Memphis 1969
Elvis Presley Elvis Presley 1956
Elvis Presley Elvis Country 1971
Elvis Presley The Sun Sessions 1976
Emitt Rhodes Emitt Rhodes 1970
Emitt Rhodes Mirror 1971
Emmylou Harris Pieces of the Sky 1975
Emmylou Harris Roses In The Snow 1980
Emmylou Harris Evangeline 1981
Emmylou Harris Elite Hotel 1975
Eric Andersen Blue River 1972
Eric Andersen Today Is The Highway 1965
Eric Bogle Something Of Value 1988
Ernest Tubb The Daddy Of Them All 1957
Esquivel Exploring New Sounds in Stereo 1959
Etta James Tell Mama 1967
Family Music in a Dolls House 1968
Faron Young Live Fast, Love Hard: Original Capitol Recordings,1952-1962 1996
Faron Young Story Songs for Country Folks 1964
Faron Young The Young Approach 1961
Faron Young This Is Faron Young! 1955
Faron Young Story Songs of Mountains and Valleys 1964
Father John Misty Fear Fun 2012
Father John Misty I Love You, Honeybear 2015
Fats Waller Fats Waller Piano Solos 1929-1941 1977
Ferlin Husky Boulevard Of Broken Dreams 1957
Flatt & Scruggs Foggy Mountain Jamboree 1957
Flatt & Scruggs Sacred Songs 1967
Flatt & Scruggs Songs of the Famous Carter Family 1961
Flatt & Scruggs The Versatile Flatt & Scruggs 1965
Flatt & Scruggs Foggy Mountain Banjo 1961
Flatt & Scruggs With Doc Watson Strictly Instrumental 1967
Fleetwood Mac Fleetwood Mac 1968
Fleetwood Mac Then Play On 1969
Fleetwood Mac English Rose 1969
Fleetwood Mac Mystery To Me 1973
Foghat Fool For The City 1975
Foxy Get Off 1978
Frank Sinatra In the Wee Small Hours 1955
Frank Zappa & The Mothers Of Invention Freak Out! 1966
Fred Neil Fred Neil 1966
Frijid Pink Frijid Pink 1970
Gal Costa Gal Costa 1969
Gal Costa Gal Costa (Cinema Olympia) 1969
Gang Of Four Hard 1983
Gene Clark White Light 1971
Gene Clark No Other 1974
Gene Clark Roadmaster 1972
Gene Clark Two Sides To Every Story 1977
Gene Clark Firebyrd 1987
Gene Clark So Rebellious A Lover 1987
Gene Vincent Bluejean Bop 1956
Gene Vincent Crazy Times 1960
Genesis Selling England By The Pound 1973
Genesis The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway 1974
George Jones Sings Country & Western Hits 1962
George Jones If My Heart Had Windows 1968
George Jones Country & Western #1 Male Singer 1964
George Jones Hits By George 1967
George Jones The Race Is On 1965
George Jones Love Bug 1966
George Jones We Found Heaven Right Here On Earth At “4033” 1966
George Jones Sings The Great Songs Of Leon Payne 1971
George Jones I Am What I Am 1980
George Jones The Grand Tour 1974
George Jones Nothing Ever Hurt Me (Half as Bad as Losing You) 1973
George Jones With Love 1971
George Jones Trouble In Mind 1965
George Jones Sings Like The Dickens! 1964
George Jones & Melba Montgomery George Jones & Melba Montgomery 1968
George Jones & Tammy Wynette Me & The First Lady 1972
Georgie Fame Georgie Fame 1974
Glen Campbell Gentle On My Mind 1967
Gordon Lightfoot If You Could Read My Mind 1970
Graham Parker Squeezing Out Sparks 1979
Graham Parker Stick To Me 1977
Gram Parsons GP 1973
Gram Parsons Grievous Angel 1974
Gram Parsons Gram Parsons & the Shilos: The Early Years, Vol. 1 1965
Gregg Allman Laid Back 1973
Guy Clark Old No. 1 1975
Hackamore Brick One Kiss Leads To Another 1970
Hank Locklin Once Over Lightly 1965
Hank Snow Sings Jimmie Rodgers Songs 1960
Hank Snow Country Classics 1955
Hank Snow & Anita Carter Together Again 1962
Hank Thompson Songs For Rounders 1959
Hank Thompson Dance Ranch 1958
Hank Thompson A Six Pack To Go 1966
Hank Thompson New Recordings Of Hank Thompson’s All-Time Hits 1956
Hank Thompson On Tap, In The Can, Or In The Bottle 1968
Hank Thompson The No. 1 Country And Western Band 1962
Hank Thompson At The Gold Nugget 1961
Hank Williams Luke The Drifter 1966
Hank Williams & The Drifting Cowboys Hank Williams 1966
Harlan Leonard & His Rockets Harlan Leonard & His Rockets 1940
Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes Black & Blue 1973
Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes Wake Up Everybody 1975
Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes 1972
Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes To Be True 1975
Harry Nilsson Aerial Ballet 1968
Harry Nilsson Nilsson Schmilsson 1971
Harry Nilsson Pandemonium Shadow Show 1967
Harry Nilsson Son of Schmilsson 1972
Harry Nilsson Nilsson Sings Newman 1970
Hasil Adkins Peanut Butter Rock and Roll 1990
Hawkshaw Hawkins The Great Hawkshaw Hawkins 1963
Honeyboy Edwards White Windows 1988
Ian Dury New Boots And Panties!! 1977
Ian Matthews Journeys From Gospel Oak 1972
Ian Matthews If You Saw Thro’ My Eyes 1971
Ian Matthews Tigers Will Survive 1971
Ike & Tina Turner Workin’ Together 1971
Isaac Hayes Hot Buttered Soul 1969
Isaac Hayes Black Moses 1971
Isaac Hayes Shaft 1971
Isaac Hayes …To Be Continued 1970
Isaac Hayes The Isaac Hayes Movement 1970
It’s A Beautiful Day It’s A Beautiful Day 1969
Ivory Joe Hunter Mean Woman Blues 1963
Jack White Lazaretto 2014
Jackie Wilson The Jackie Wilson Story 1983
Jackson Browne Late for the Sky 1974
Jacques Brel Olympia 64 1964
James Brown Live at the Apollo 1963
James Brown Hot Pants 1971
James Chance & The Contortions Buy 1979
James Talley Blackjack Choir 1977
Jason Isbell Southeastern 2013
Jerry Jeff Walker Driftin’ Way of Life 1969
Jerry Jeff Walker Viva Terlingua 1973
Jerry Jeff Walker Ridin’ High 1975
Jerry Jeff Walker Mr. Bojangles 1968
Jerry Jeff Walker Walker’s Collectibles 1974
Jerry Lee Lewis Taste Of Country 1970
Jerry Lee Lewis She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye 1970
Jerry Lee Lewis Touching Home 1971
Jerry Lee Lewis In Loving Memories 1978
Jerry Lee Lewis The Golden Cream Of The Country 1971
Jerry Lee Lewis Another Place Another Time 1969
Jethro Tull This Was 1968
Jethro Tull Aqualung 1971
Jim & Jesse Y’All Come: The Essential Jim & Jesse N/A
Jim & Jesse Jim & Jesse: 1952-1955 N/A
Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band Jug Band Blues 1987
Jimmie Dale Gilmore Fair & Square 1988
Jimmie Driftwood Wilderness Road 1959
Jimmy Martin The King Of Bluegrass N/A
Joanna Newsom Ys 2006
Joe “King” Carrasco And The Crowns Synapse Gap 1982
Joe Cocker Joe Cocker! 1969
Joe Ely Joe Ely 1975
Joe South Don’t It Make You Want To Go Home 1968
Joe Tex I’ve Got To Do A Little Bit Better 1966
Joe Tex Buying A Book 1969
Joe Walsh Barnstorm 1972
Joe Walsh The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get 1973
Jo-El Sonnier The Cajun Troubadour 1989
John B. Sebastian John B. Sebastian 1970
John Cale Honi Soit 1981
John Hammond So Many Roads 1965
John Lee Hooker Never Get Out Of These Blues Alive 1972
John Lennon Rock ‘N’ Roll 1975
John Lennon Mind Games 1973
John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers A Hard Road 1967
John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers Crusade 1967
John Sebastian The Four Of Us 1971
John Stewart Willard 1970
John Stewart Sunstorm 1971
Johnny Cash With His Hot & Blue Guitar 1957
Johnny Cash From Sea To Shining Sea 1968
Johnny Cash Sings Hank Williams 1960
Johnny Cash The Fabulous Johnny Cash 1958
Johnny Rivers Changes 1966
Johnny Winter The Progressive Blues Experiment 1969
Joni Mitchell Blue 1971
José Feliciano Feliciano! 1968
Justin Townes Earle Midnight At The Movies 2009
Kanye West My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy 2010
Kevin Coyne Marjory Razorblade 1973
King Curtis Soul Serenade 1964
Kitty Wells Kitty Wells’ Country Hit Parade 1956
Kris Kristofferson The Silver Tongued Devil and I 1971
Kris Kristofferson Me And Bobby McGee/Kristofferson 1970
L.C. Robinson House Cleanin Blues 1974
Laura Nyro New York Tendaberry 1969
Laura Nyro Eli and the Thirteenth Confession 1968
Laura Nyro Christmas And The Beads Of Sweat 1970
Led Zeppelin 3 1970
Led Zeppelin 4 1971
Lefty Frizzel Saginaw, Michigan 1964
Lefty Frizzell Lefty Goes To Nashville 1983
Leo Kottke 6 & 12-String Guitar 1971
Leo Kottke Mudlark 1971
Leon Russell Leon Russell 1970
Lindsey Buckingham Law & Order 1981
Lindsey Buckingham Go Insane 1984
Little Jimmy Dickens Columbia Historic Edition 1984
Long John Baldry It Ain’t Easy 1971
Lonnie Mack The Wham Of That Memphis Man! 1964
Loretta Lynn You Ain’t Woman Enough 1966
Loretta Lynn Don’t Come Home A Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind) 1967
Loretta Lynn Coal Miner’s Daughter 1971
Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitty We Only Make Believe 1971
Los Bravos Black Is Back 1966
Lotte Lenya September Song And Other American Theatre Songs Of Kurt Weill 1957
Lou Rawls Soulin’ 1966
Lou Reed Street Hassle 1978
Loudon Wainwright III Attempted Mustache 1973
Louvin Brothers Tragic Songs Of Life 1956
Louvin Brothers Satan Is Real 1960
Love Da Capo 1967
Lupe Fiasco Tetsuo & Youth 2015
Lynyrd Skynyrd Gimme Back My Bullets 1976
Maddy Prior & June Tabor Silly Sisters 1976
Mahalia Jackson The World’s Greatest Gospel Singer 1955
Mahalia Jackson Mahalia Jackson Sings America’s Favorite Hymns 1977
Man Rhinos, Winos, & Lunatics 1975
Marianne Faithfull Dangerous Acquaintances 1981
Marion Williams Standing Here Wondering Which Way To Go 1971
Marty Robbins Gunfighter Ballads And Trail Songs 1959
Marty Robbins Devil Woman 1962
Marvin Gaye Let’s Get It On 1973
Marvin Gaye What’s Going On 1971
Marvin Gaye Here, My Dear 1978
Marvin Gaye Midnight Love 1982
Marvin Gaye I Want You 1976
Mary Hopkin Post Card 1969
Matt Woods With Love From Brushy Mountain 2014
McGuinn, Clark & Hillman McGuinn, Clark & Hillman 1979
Merle Haggard Branded Man 1967
Merle Haggard Swinging Doors and The Bottle Let Me Down 1966
Merle Haggard Mama Tried 1968
Merle Haggard Hag 1971
Merle Haggard A Tribute To The Best Damn Fiddle Player 1970
Merle Haggard The Roots Of My Raising 1976
Merle Haggard Same Train, Different Time 1969
Merle Haggard Someday We’ll Look Back 1971
Merle Haggard Big City 1981
Merle Haggard The Way It Was in ’51 1978
Merle Haggard I’m A Lonesome Fugitive 1967
Merle Haggard Pride In What I Am 1969
Merle Haggard Back To The Barrooms 1980
Merle Haggard That’s The Way Love Goes 1983
Merle Haggard Sing Me Back Home 1968
Merle Haggard A Working Man Can’t Get Nowhere Today 1974
Merle Haggard Strangers 1965
Merle Travis Travis! 1962
Merle Travis The Merle Travis Guitar 1956
MFSB Love Is The Message 1975
Michael Bloomfield/Al Kooper/Stephen Stills Super Session 1968
Michael Murphey Geronimo’s Cadillac 1972
Michael Nesmith And The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ 1972
Michael Nesmith Infinite Rider On The Big Dogma 1979
Mickey Newbury Heaven Help the Child 1973
Mickey Newbury ‘Frisco Mabel Joy 1971
Mickey Newbury His Eye Is On The Sparrow 1978
Mickey Newbury I Came To Hear The Music 1974
Mike Heron Smiling Men with Bad Reputations 1971
Mink DeVille Cabretta 1977
Miriam Makeba The Voice Of Africa 1964
Miriam Makeba The Many Voices Of Miriam Makeba 1962
Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels Sock It To Me! 1967
Moby Grape 20 Granite Creek 1971
Moby Grape Grape Jam 1968
Moby Grape Moby Grape 1967
Mongo Santamaria La Bamba 1964
Moon Mullican Seven Nights To Rock 2004
Mott The Hoople Mott 1973
Mott The Hoople The Hoople 1974
Mott The Hoople All the Young Dudes 1972
Nazz Nazz Nazz 1969
Nazz Nazz 1968
Neil Diamond Stones 1971
Neil Diamond Tap Root Manuscript 1970
Neil Diamond Classics The Early Years 1983
Neil Young Neil Young 1968
Neil Young American Stars ‘N Bars 1977
Neil Young After The Gold Rush 1970
Neil Young Harvest 1972
Neil Young On The Beach 1974
Neil Young Comes A Time 1978
Neil Young Times Fades Away 1973
Neutral Milk Hotel On Avery Island 1996
Neutral Milk Hotel In The Aeroplane Over The Sea 1998
New Colony Six Breakthrough 1966
New York Dolls Too Much Too Soon 1974
Nick Lowe Labour Of Lust 1979
Nick Lowe The Impossible Bird 1994
Nick Lowe & His Cowboy Outfit The Rose Of England 1985
Nico Chelsea Girl 1967
Norman Blake Old And New 1975
Norman Blake Whiskey Before Breakfast 1976
O.V. Wright A Nickel and a Nail and Ace of Spades 1971
Oblivians Popular Favorities 1996
Odetta Sings Ballads And Blues 1956
Ohio Players Honey 1975
Os Mutantes Os Mutantes 1968
Otis Redding Otis Blue / Otis Redding Sings Soul 1966
P.F. Sloan Twelve More Times 1966
Patsy Cline Sentimentally Yours 1962
Patti Smith Group Radio Ethiopia 1976
Paul & Linda McCartney Ram 1971
Paul McCartney McCartney 1970
Paul McCartney McCartney II 1980
Paul McCartney & Wings Band On The Run 1973
Pearls Before Swine The Use Of Ashes 1970
Pete Shelley Homosapien 1981
Peter Townshend Who Came First 1972
Phil Alvin Un “Sung” Stories 1986
Phil Ochs Pleasures Of The Harbor 1967
Phil Ochs Chords Of Fame 1976
Poco Pickin’ Up The Pieces 1969
Poco Poco 1970
Porter Wagoner Your Old Love Letters & Other Country Hits 1966
Porter Wagoner A Satisfied Mind 1956
Pretty Things S. F. Sorrow 1968
Prince Sign O the Times 1987
Prince Dirty Mind 1980
Prince Around The World In A Day 1985
Professor Longhair Crawfish Fiesta 1980
Quarterbacks Quarterbacks 2015
Quincy Jones Walking in Space 1969
Raheem DeVaughn The Love & War MasterPeace 2010
Ralph McTell You Well-Meaning Brought Me Here 1971
Ralph McTell Not Till Tomorrow 1972
Randy Newman Randy Newman 1968
Randy Travis Storms Of Life 1986
Raphael Saadiq Stone Rollin’ 2011
Ray Charles Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music 1962
Ray Charles The Genius Of Ray Charles 1959
Ray Price Talk To Your Heart 1958
Ray Price San Antonio Rose 1962
Red Foley The Red Foley Story 1964
Red Foley Tennessee Saturday Night 2002
Red Simpson Roll Truck Roll 1966
Red Sovine Phantom 309 1968
Red Steagall Lone Star Beer 1976
Richard “Groove” Holmes Soul Message 1965
Richard & Linda Thompson Shoot Out The Lights 1982
Richard & Linda Thompson I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight 1974
Richard Thompson Across A Crowded Room 1985
Richie Havens Mixed Bag 1967
Rising Sons Rising Sons 1965
Robert Plant Band of Joy 2010
Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians Gotta Let This Hen Out! 1985
Rod Stewart Never A Dull Moment 1972
Rodney Crowell Diamonds & Dirt 1988
Rodriguez Coming From Reality 1971
Rodriguez Cold Fact 1970
Roger McGuinn Roger McGuinn 1973
Roger McGuinn Cardiff Rose 1976
Roger Miller The Return Of Roger Miller 1965
Roger Miller The Third Time Around 1965
Roger Miller Dang Me 1964
Roger Miller Words And Music By Roger Miller 1966
Roger Miller The One And Only 1965
Roger Miller Roger Miller 1964
Roger Miller A Trip In The Country 1970
Roger Miller 1970 1970
Ronnie Hawkins The Giant Of Rock & Roll 1974
Rosanne Cash King’s Record Shop 1987
Rosie Flores Rosie Flores 1987
Roy Acuff Columbia Historic Edition 1985
Ry Cooder Bop Till You Drop 1979
Sam Cooke Live At The Harlem Square Club 1963 1963
Sam Cooke Night Beat 1963
Scott Joplin His Complete Works 1992
Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 Look Around 1968
Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 Fool On The Hill 1968
Shuggie Otis Here Comes Shuggie Otis 1970
Shuggie Otis Inspiration Information 1974
Silver Jews Tanglewood Numbers 2005
Sir Doug & The Texas Tornados Texas Rock For Country Rollers 1976
Sleater-Kinney No Cities to Love 2015
Sleepy LaBeef Down Home Rockabilly 1978
Slint Spiderland 1991
Sly & The Family Stone Theres a Riot Goin On 1971
Sly & The Family Stone Life 1968
Sly & The Family Stone Stand! 1969
Sly & The Family Stone Dance To The Music 1968
Small Faces Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake 1968
Solomon Burke If You Need Me/Rock ‘N Soul 1963
Sonics Here Are The Sonics!!! 1965
Squeeze East Side Story 1981
Stephen Stills / Manassas Manassas 1972
Stevie Wonder Talking Book 1972
Stills-Young Band Long May You Run 1976
Stonewall Jackson The Dynamic Stonewall Jackson 1959
Stonewall Jackson The Lonesome In Me 1970
Sturgill Simpson Metamodern Sounds in Country Music 2014
Sweet Desolation Boulevard 1974
T. Rex The Slider 1972
Taj Mahal Taj Mahal 1968
Taj Mahal De Ole Folks At Home 1969
Taj Mahal Giant Step 1969
Taj Mahal Music Keeps Me Together 1975
Tammy Wynette The Ways To Love A Man 1969
Tammy Wynette DIVORCE 1968
Tammy Wynette The World Of Tammy Wynette 1970
Tav Falco & the Panther Burns Behind the Magnolia Curtain 1982
Tav Falco & the Panther Burns Blow Your Top 1982
Ted Leo & The Pharmacists Living With The Living 2007
Ted Nugent Double Live Gonzo! 1978
Tenpole Tudor Eddie, Old Bob, Dick And Gary 1981
Terry Callier I Just Can’t Help Myself 1974
Terry Callier What Color Is Love? 1973
Terry Reid Terry Reid 1969
The Allman Brothers The Allman Brothers Band 1969
The Allman Brothers Idlewild South 1970
The Animals Animalization 1966
The Apples In Stereo Travellers In Space And Time 2010
The Bailes Brothers Early Radio Favorites 1977
The Bailey Brothers Take Me Back To Happy Valley 1975
The Beach Boys All Summer Long 1964
The Beach Boys Pet Sounds 1966
The Beach Boys Holland 1973
The Beach Boys Surfer Girl 1963
The Beach Boys Surf’s Up 1971
The Beach Boys Little Deuce Coupe 1963
The Beat The Beat 1979
The Beatles Rubber Soul 1965
The Beatles Yesterday And Today 1966
The Beau Brummels Volume 2 1965
The Bhundu Boys Shabini 1986
The Bhundu Boys Pamberi! 1990
The Bobby Fuller Four Best Of The Bobby Fuller Four 1981
The Brothers Johnson Right On Time 1977
The Byrds The Notorious Byrd Brothers 1968
The Byrds Younger Than Yesterday 1967
The Byrds Mr. Tambourine Man 1965
The Byrds Turn! Turn! Turn! 1965
The Byrds Preflyte 1964
The Byrds Untitled 1970
The Carter Family Hello Stranger (1936-37) N/A
The Carter Family More Golden Gems From The Original Carter Family 1972
The Carter Family Lonesome Pine Special 1971
The Chi-Lites (For God’s Sake) Give More Power to the People 1971
The Chi-Lites A Lonely Man 1972
The Chi-Lites The Chi-Lites 1973
The Chi-Lites Half A Love 1974
The Chi-Lites Give It Away 1969
The Clash The Clash (UK Version) 1977
The Coasters Their Greatest Recordings: The Early Years 1971
The Coolies Dig..? 1986
The Country Gentlemen Award Winning Country Gentlemen 1972
The Delfonics The Delfonics 1970
The Dillards The Dillards Vs. the Incredible L.A. Time Machine 1977
The Dillards Wheatstraw Suite 1968
The Dillards Pickin’ & Fiddlin’ 1965
The Dillards Back Porch Bluegrass 1963
The Dillards Copperfields 1970
The Electric Prunes Underground 1967
The Everly Brothers The Everly Brothers 1958
The Everly Brothers A Date With The Everly Brothers 1960
The Everly Brothers The Fabulous Style Of The Everly Brothers 1960
The Everly Brothers Gone, Gone, Gone 1964
The Faces A Nod’s As Good As A Wink…To A Blind Horse 1971
The Faces First Step 1970
The Faces Long Player 1971
The Flying Burrito Brothers The Flying Burrito Brothers 1971
The Flying Burrito Brothers Burrito Deluxe 1970
The Flying Burrito Brothers The Gilded Palace Of Sin 1969
The Four Freshmen Four Freshmen and 5 Trombones 1955
The Four Freshmen Voices In Fun 1961
The Four Tops Soul Spin 1969
The Four Tops Nature Planned It 1972
The Go-Betweens 16 Lovers Lane 1988
The Handsome Family Through The Trees 1998
The Impressions The Young Mod’s Forgotten Story 1969
The Impressions This Is My Country 1968
The Impressions Check Out Your Mind 1970
The Impressions We’re A Winner 1968
The Impressions Keep On Pushing 1964
The Impressions People Get Ready 1965
The Incredible String Band The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter 1968
The Incredible String Band Wee Tam 1968
The International Submarine Band Safe At Home 1968
The Isley Brothers 3+3 1973
The J. Geils Band Bloodshot 1973
The J. Geils Band Nightmares…and Other Tales from the Vinyl Jungle 1974
The Jackson 5 Third Album 1970
The James Gang Yer’ Album 1969
The Kentucky Colonels The Long Journey Home 1964
The Kentucky Colonels Feat. Roland White And Clarence White 1965-1966 1976
The Kinks Something Else By The Kinks 1967
The Kinks Lola Versus the Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One 1970
The Kinks The Kinks Kontroversy 1965
The Kinks The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society 1968
The Kinks Celluloid Heroes 1976
The Kinks Muswell Hillbillies 1971
The Kinks Kinda Kinks 1965
The Kinks Arthur Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire 1969
The Last Poets The Last Poets 1970
The Lilly Brothers Early Recordings 1971
The Lost Gonzo Band The Lost Gonzo Band 1975
The Lovin’ Spoonful Everything Playing 1968
The Lovin’ Spoonful Daydream 1966
The Lovin’ Spoonful Do You Believe In Magic 1965
The Lovin’ Spoonful Hums of the Lovin’ Spoonful 1966
The Mavericks Mono 2015
The Mavericks In Time 2013
The Mavericks What A Crying Shame 1994
The Microphones The Glow, Pt. 2 2001
The Modern Lovers Rock & Roll With The Modern Lovers 1977
The Monkees The Monkees 1966
The Monkees Headquarters 1967
The Monkees More Of The Monkees 1967
The Monkees Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. 1967
The Monks Black Monk Time 1966
The O’Jays Backstabbers 1972
The O’Jays Ship Ahoy 1973
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band The Paul Butterfield Blues Band 1965
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band East West 1966
The Pentangle Basket of Light 1969
The Persuasions Spread The Word 1972
The Persuasions Chirpin’ 1977
The Pink Fairies Kings of Oblivion 1973
The Pretenders Pretenders II 1981
The Rance Allen Group A Soulful Experience 1975
The Raspberries Fresh 1975
The Records The Records 1979
The Records Crashes 1980
The Remains The Remains 1966
The Rolling Stones Out Of Our Heads 1965
The Rolling Stones Aftermath 1966
The Rolling Stones 12×5 1964
The Rolling Stones Emotional Rescue 1980
The Rolling Stones Flowers 1967
The Rolling Stones Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! 1970
The Rolling Stones It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll 1974
The Rolling Stones Between The Buttons 1967
The Rolling Stones Goats Head Soup 1973
The Rolling Stones Beggars Banquet 1968
The Rolling Stones England’s Newest Hit Makers 1964
The Rolling Stones Their Satanic Majesties Request 1967
The Rose Garden The Rose Garden 1968
The Seeds A Web Of Sound 1966
The Seeds The Seeds 1966
The Seldom Scene Act 3 1973
The Sir Douglas Band Texas Tornado 1973
The Sir Douglas Quintet The Return of Douglas Saldana 1971
The Sir Douglas Quintet Mendocino 1969
The Sir Douglas Quintet Together After Five 1970
The Soft Machine The Soft Machine 1968
The Sorrows Take A Heart 1965
The Soul Survivors When the Whistle Blows Anything Goes 1967
The Spinners Pick Of The Litter 1975
The Stanley Brothers The Complete Mercury Recordings N/A
The Stanley Brothers Sing Songs They Like Best 1961
The Stanley Brothers The Stanley Brothers 1961
The Staple Singers The Staple Swingers 1971
The Steve Miller Band Children Of The Future 1968
The Strawberry Alarm Clock Incense And Peppermints 1967
The Temptations Psychedelic Shack 1970
The Trashmen Surfin’ Bird 1964
The Undertones The Undertones 1979
The Undertones Hypnotised 1980
The Undertones All Wrapped Up 1983
The Velvet Underground Loaded 1970
The Wackers Wackering Heights 1971
The Who Live At Leeds 1970
The Wild Tchoupitoulas The Wild Tchoupitoulas 1976
The Youngbloods Elephant Mountain 1969
The Zombies Odessey & Oracle 1969
Them The Angry Young Them/Them (featuring Here Comes the Night) 1965
Thunderclap Newman Hollywood Dream 1969
Tim Buckley Goodbye And Hello 1967
Todd Rundgren A Wizard, a True Star 1973
Todd Rundgren Runt 1970
Todd Rundgren Something / Anything? 1972
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers You’re Gonna Get It! 1978
Tom T. Hall The Rhymer And Other Five And Dimers 1973
Tom T. Hall Ballad Of Forty Dollars 1969
Tom Verlaine Dreamtime 1981
Tom Verlaine Words From The Front 1982
Tommy Collins Words and Music Country Style 1957
Tompall Glaser Charlie 1973
Tompall Glaser Tompall Glaser & His Outlaw Band 1977
Townes Van Zandt Delta Momma Blues 1971
Townes Van Zandt Our Mother The Mountain 1969
Tunabunny Genius Fatigue 2013
Turbonegro Apocalypse Dudes 1998
Van Dyke Parks Song Cycle 1968
Van Morrison Wavelength 1978
Van Morrison Into The Music 1979
Various Rockabilly Stars, Volume 1 1981
Various Rockabilly Stars Vol. 2 1995
Vassar Clements Vassar Clements 1975
Vern Gosdin Chiseled In Stone 1988
Vern Gosdin Till The End 1977
War The World Is A Ghetto 1972
Warren Zevon Warren Zevon 1976
Waylon & Willie Waylon & Willie 1978
Waylon Jennings Honky Tonk Heroes 1973
Waylon Jennings Lonesome, On’ry and Mean 1973
Waylon Jennings Heartaches By The Number 1972
Waylon Jennings The Taker/Tulsa 1971
Waylon Jennings Love Of The Common People 1967
Waylon Jennings This Time 1974
Waylon Jennings Ol’Waylon 1977
Waylon Jennings Dreaming My Dreams 1975
Waylon Jennings Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town 1973
Webb Pierce That Wondering Boy 1956
Webb Pierce Webb Pierce 1955
Webb Pierce Fallen Angel 1961
Webb Pierce Sings This Thing 1969
Webb Pierce I Got A New Heartache 1963
Wild Flag Wild Flag 2011
William Bell The Soul Of A Bell 1967
Willie Nelson Phases and Stages 1974
Willie Nelson Shotgun Willie 1973
Willie Nelson Stardust 1978
Willie Nelson The Troublemaker 1976
Willie Nelson Yesterday’s Wine 1971
Willie Nelson Red Headed Stranger 1975
Willie Nelson The Sound In Your Mind 1976
Willie Nelson My Own Peculiar Way 1969
Willie Nelson Country Willie: His Own Songs 1965
Willie Nelson & Ray Price San Antonio Rose 1980
Willie Sugarcapps Willie Sugarcapps 2013
Wilson Pickett I’m In Love 1968
Wilson Pickett The Midnight Mover 1968
Wire A Bell Is A Cup… Until It Is Struck 1988
Woody Guthrie With Leadbelly, Cisco Houston, Sonny Terry And Bess Hawes Sings Folk Songs 1962
X More Fun In The New World 1983
X Los Angeles 1980
X Under The Big Black Sun 1982
X Wild Gift 1981
XTC Black Sea 1980
XTC Apple Venus Volume 1 1999
XTC Drums & Wires 1979
Young Fresh Fellows This One’s For The Ladies 1989
Z.Z. Hill In Memorium 1935-1984 1985
Zal Yanovsky Alive And Well In Argentina 1971
ZZ Top Tres Hombres 1973
ZZ Top Tejas 1976

The List

A number of you asked for the complete list of 5-star records, so here it is. A couple of notes:

1. I began this list to target genres, artists, and records I had not given proper attention to. I know punk, general 50s-80s rock and roll, blues, and jazz fairly well, so those genres are not well-represented here.

2. I can justify every 5-star rating on here, so just ask. I’d also be curious to hear what 5-star records you know about.


Moon Safari
Al Green
Let’s Stay Together
Al Green
I’m Still In Love With You
Al Green
Gets Next To You
Alan Price
This Price Is Right
Alexander “Skip” Spence
Bee Gees
Bee Gees
Bert Jansch
Bert Jansch
Bill Withers
Still Bill
Bill Withers
Just As I Am
Brian Eno & David Byrne
My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts
Buck Owens
Buck Owens Sings Harlan Howard
Buck Owens And His Buckaroos
I’ve Got A Tiger By The Tail
Curtis Mayfield
Curtis Mayfield
Super Fly
Davy Graham
The Guitar Player
Faron Young
Live Fast, Love Hard: Original Capitol Recordings,1952-1962
Frank Sinatra
In the Wee Small Hours
Fred Neil
Fred Neil
Gene Clark
White Light
Gene Clark
George Jones
Country & Western #1 Male Singer
Gram Parsons
Grievous Angel
Harry Nilsson
Pandemonium Shadow Show
Harry Nilsson
Nilsson Schmilsson
Harry Nilsson
Son of Schmilsson
Harry Nilsson
Nilsson Sings Newman
Jerry Jeff Walker
Driftin’ Way of Life
Jerry Lee Lewis
Taste Of Country
Jerry Lee Lewis
She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye
John Stewart
Kris Kristofferson
The Silver Tongued Devil and I
Louvin Brothers
Tragic Songs Of Life
Louvin Brothers
Satan Is Real
Marvin Gaye
Let’s Get It On
Merle Haggard
Same Train, Different Time
Merle Haggard
A Tribute To The Best Damn Fiddle Player
Merle Haggard
Big City
Mickey Newbury
‘Frisco Mabel Joy
Nick Lowe
Labour Of Lust
Norman Blake
Old And New
Norman Blake
Whiskey Before Breakfast
Os Mutantes
Os Mutantes
Otis Redding
Otis Blue / Otis Redding Sings Soul
Phil Ochs
Pleasures Of The Harbor
Raphael Saadiq
Stone Rollin’
Sam Cooke
Live At The Harlem Square Club 1963
Sam Cooke
Night Beat
The Byrds
The Notorious Byrd Brothers
The Byrds
Younger Than Yesterday
The Byrds
Turn! Turn! Turn!
The Chi-Lites
A Lonely Man
The Dillards
Wheatstraw Suite
The Everly Brothers
The Everly Brothers
The Impressions
This Is My Country
The Impressions
The Young Mod’s Forgotten Story
The International Submarine Band
Safe At Home
The Kentucky Colonels
The Long Journey Home
The Kinks
Something Else By The Kinks
The Kinks
The Kinks Kontroversy
The Kinks
The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society
The Lilly Brothers
Early Recordings
The Lovin’ Spoonful
Do You Believe In Magic
The Lovin’ Spoonful
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band
East West
The Remains
The Remains
The Stanley Brothers
The Complete Mercury Recordings
The Zombies
Odessey & Oracle
Townes Van Zandt
Delta Momma Blues
Waylon Jennings
Honky Tonk Heroes
William Bell
The Soul Of A Bell
Willie Nelson
Phases and Stages
Willie Nelson
Shotgun Willie

1001 Records and The Drive-By Truckers Syndrome

imagesAbout six months ago, a friend mentioned a book to me that it turns out I had bought some years ago and forgotten–one of the many annotated lists of must-hear records. While the book is heavily skewed toward British music, it knocked loose a revelation in me: I suffered from musical ADD and had been for some time, and it was music’s very availability that had fertilized this tendency.  At some point, I had stopped listening to albums and devolved into listening to songs and playlists exclusively, cherry picking tunes that already aligned to my calcifying tastes. Back in my teens, when I used to spend all my paper route money on records, I would memorize every part of an album, liner notes and all. Spotify, Pandora, mp3s, and increased disposible income had killed off this part of me.

600full-ive-got-a-tiger-by-the-tail-cover So I decided to make my own list, and installed a few rules for self discipline: 1. I must listen to a record in its entirety, and could not skip songs, no matter how wretched; 2. I had to rate each record from 1 to 5; and, 3. I had to write a few notes about my experience with the record. The result is a pretty comprehensive spreadsheet (numbering some 800 records and growing) and a revitalized obsession with the vinyl album as an art form. Some days I will listen to 8 records a day, sometimes none, and I am now on a first-name basis with my town’s record store owners.  Among the many surprises: 1960s Bakersfield Country, the also-rans of the classic Psych period, the many branches of the Byrds family tree, and Curtis Mayfield’s late-60s/early-70s work with The Impressions.

I also discovered something I call The Drive-By Truckers Syndrome, which is making a record simply because it is time to make a record. In these cases, the artist seemingly appears in the studio with a clutch of songs to record regardless of whether or not the material itself actually constitutes an album. For instance, we consider London Calling, Odessey & Oracle (sic), and Astral Weeks albums, not just song collections.  In many cases, records suffering from DBTS are fine and inoffensive, but often indistinguishable from any other record in the artist’s oeuvre. The various configurations of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young made DBTS a cottage industry in the 70s, and even the great Van Morrison has endured periods when he had more songs than inspiration.








Here is a sampling of some of the records I rated as “5 stars”—each one a revelation:

  • Willie Nelson, “Phases and Stages” (1974)
  • Os Mutantes, “Os Mutantes” (1968)
  • Alexander “Skip” Spence, “Oar” (1969)
  • Gene Clark, “White Light” (1971)
  • Buck Owens And His Buckaroos, “I’ve Got A Tiger By The Tail” (1965)
  • Raphael Saadiq, “Stone Rollin'” (2011)
  • The Kentucky Colonels, “The Long Journey Home” (1964)
  • Mickey Newbury, “‘Frisco Mabel Joy” (1971)
  • Air, “Moon Safari” (1998)

The Power Of Pop

I’ve had a Pop fetish that dates from the time I heard the first “woo!” (at :08) in the Jackson 5’s “The Love You Save” on the bus in first grade. It likely started earlier, but that is the first historical evidence I have. I may have been a solitary, frightened, stripe-trousered, snaggle-toothed kid, but I knew a good hook when I heard one. I’ve been chasing that first potent bolus of Pop energy ever since. Admitting this ain’t easy.

You see, Pop has a philosophical problem, especially with the music intelligensia (self-appointed and otherwise), and that problem is right there in the name. The equation goes like this: Pop = popular = the unschooled hordes = immediately suspect. It’s the old Bread & Circuses conundrum. Complicating matters is 50 years of wretched pop music, and of songs lazily called Pop that actually aren’t. For instance, Michael Jackson will never be the King Of Pop, because he didn’t make pop music as Michael Jackson…but he sure as hell did with the Jackson 5.

So what’s the difference? I suspect–though have never verified–that it could be proven scientifically that certain chord progressions and melodies hit that sweet spot in the Western brain. For want of a better word, let’s call them “hooks,” since everyone else does. I am a hook junkie and the best Pop artists manipulate them to their advantage. ABBA, for instance, leads with the hook in “Dancing Queen” (an undebatably brilliant Pop song…just ask Jeff Tweedy). In “Go All The Way,” the Raspberries get to the hook in short order and drive it home no less than 6 times in 3 minutes and 25 seconds. Hooks don’t have to slap you upside the head like these, but there they must be! Listen to Pernice Brothers, Big Star, Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, and Lambchop for just how sophisticated and infectious these can be.

Out of sheer laziness, I will say that Pop is ultimately undefinable or, at least, is best served through examples. I will have at least 30 of these at your disposal this Sunday from 1 to 3 on Left Of The Dial, only on Grow Radio!

Doc Watson And My Grandfather

When my grandfather came back from WW2, he bought a Gibson L-7 and became the best Travis-Atkins style guitarist I have ever seen. In a series of events that would claim a blog post of its own, that guitar now sits in my closet, dried rattlesnake rattles resting against the unparalleled Gibson craftsmanship inside its hollow body. The best part of our regular visits to South Carolina farm country involved all of us sitting around to watch him play this guitar. On a good day, my great grandmother would  accompany him on autoharp and the rest of the family would kick in with improvised vocal harmonies. For me, this was the musical equivalent of writing in wet cement, and goes a long way toward explaining my obsession with music.

The incomparable Doc Watson passed this week. Blind, both proud and humble, he was the best flatpicking guitarist ANYONE has ever seen. Doc was rooted firmly in the hills of North Carolina, not too far from where my grandfather, his contemporary, plied his skills on the local gospel circuit. So this music (Doc, Earl, Merle, Chet, Bill) has always felt like home to me, because in my small way I participated in it. About 5 years ago, I found a number of acetates my grandfather made in the 1940s and 50s. The lacquer was peeling off and many were unplayable. On them I found full and partial songs, radio takes, and the sound of my family years before I was born singing and playing together. What I did manage to salvage, I recorded, cleaned up, and dubbed onto CDs.

Like Doc Watson, everyone on those CDs is now gone and, honestly, I don’t know if our generations have come anywhere close to carrying on their legacy. I do know that since my grandfather died in 1997, the only family gatherings we have had are funerals and, although my brother and I consider ourselves musicians, neither of us have ever played with the younger generations at our feet, freshly bathed and sitting transfixed in their pajamas

Please join me tomorrow for “Left Of The Dial” from 1 to 3 Eastern on Grow Radio as I honor the music of Doc Watson and others.


…was the year I learned to hate Disco, a fortunately short-lived phase that I now know to be the result of cultural trends having their way with me without any critical thinking on my part. As soon as I saw my first “Disco Sucks” t-shirt in Creem magazine, I knew that the disco 12-inchers and 45s had taken their last spin on my Panasonic turntable…or so I thought.

See, like any year (arbitrary time markers, at best), 1979 was a pivotal one. Disco and funk were trending down, and punk and New Wave were trending way up in the US, while punk itself had already reached its sell-by date in the UK. Yet 1979 was THE year for Post-Punk in the UK. See how that works? Mark any date and any given cultural trend is either ascendant or descendant. That’s why it is so much bullshit to say “Music sucked in the 70s.” Because it did not suck, not by a long shot.

1979 was the most important year in my musical life. I was playing the guitar at least 4-5 hours a day, learning every Stones lick (incorrectly, I later found out), and buying more records than I ever had before or ever have since. I had discovered the Clash, the Ramones, Graham Parker, had seen the B-52’s, the Who, and the Ramones live…at the same time that I was still nursing a heavy metal jones that was, for the most part, misguided.

Help me revisit this crucial year tomorrow (Sunday, 2-26) on my show, “Left Of The Dial” from 1-3 Eastern on http://www.growradio.org.

Columbia House

My jones for more, more, more music was lit early and has yet to wane. It started with a Kool And The Gang 45 when I was nine, picked up ferocious speed the day I got my paper route at 13, and has totally overwhelmed me in the digital age. If I use drug metaphors to describe my relationship with acquiring music, that is because what I am describing is addiction. I am not alone.

At least that’s what Columbia House Record Club bet the farm on way back when. Anyone close to my age knows exactly what Columbia House was. In the 70s and 80s the magazine ads were ubiquitous: “12 Records Free” and then something about how you need do nothing else…but let the (wretched) Album Of The Month arrive at retail + $5, and some other fine print that read like a mortgage document.

The Columbia House business model took a page from the anti-drug speeches we listened to in school. They would “front” you the free stuff up front, and then slam you with outrageous commitments you had no idea you signed up for. As far as I know, there was no age limitation for sign up either. Practically every parent who raised a child in the 60s, 70, or 80s has penned an irate letter to Columbia House. I remember at least three times I re-uped with them, defaulting on my obligation each time.

The result is that I have a huge number of Greatest Hits compilations in my vinyl collection, many of which I would never have purchased had I been paying “real” money. They never had the good stuff at Columbia House, for some reason. It was always the Dylan album that sucked from 1972 or a perfectly awful Aerosmith live record. What it did do is obvious to anyone who has taken a look at the shelves in my living room, or at the external hard drive(s) I cart around: it made my appetite for more music, more tweaks to my dopamine receptors, insatiable. So, thank you, Columbia House, I guess.


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