28 August 2007

What He Left Behind

It's funny, growing up and being told how similar you are to a person you never met. All my life, my family has told me how much I remind them of my deceased uncle, Stuart, who drowned a few years before I was born. Characteristics in common (from what I'm told) include our ability to enjoy being by ourselves, our apprehension to confrontations (although I seem to handle that apprehension differently), an interest in comic books and the arts in general, and a studious, thoughtful level of consciousness.

Recently, I cataloged Stuart's records. Mostly, I've done this because, as a historian, I have a compulsion to do such things, but I also wanted to get a sense of what I could glean from him through what he left behind.

At first glance, I see that Stuart's favorites apparently included Pink Floyd (4 albums), the Beatles (5 albums, plus John Lennon's Imagine and Paul & Linda McCartney's Ram), Jefferson Airplane (5 albums) and the Rolling Stones (9 albums). Not being someone who ever "got" the Beatles' music, I'm not sure how much alike he and I really could have been.

Still, I've never really listened to the albums, so for all I know I'll discover something there that I never found in the singles on radio. Never been all that drawn to the Stones, either, but this is clearly the place to start. Always liked "Satisfaction," which I mentioned in my blog comment yesterday about enjoying Vanilla Ice's cover on his Extremely Live album. Yeah, that's right, I was ga-ga over Vanilla Ice and never "got" the Beatles. Go figure.

I couldn't help but notice as I rummaged through that box of LP's how eye-catching most of the album jackets were. One of the Jefferson Airplane albums was packaged inside what amounted to a big brown paper sack. Grand Funk Railroad's self-titled album is in a round jacket patterned after the quarter; they even rounded the entire thing, making getting the record in and out actually easier than it is with the normal square shaped ones. And that's not even mentioning the colorful artwork (my favorite being Jethro Tull's Aqualung, whose blatantly religious imagery visually compels me to want to play the record).

I also happen to think that the first reason Stuart felt the need to own the Shocking Blue's self-titled album is that the foursome appear to be naked on the cover and the chick in the group makes up for the three guys. In truth, they're probably all in swimsuits or whatever, but you can't determine that from what's actually shown, and when I consider that he was still in high school at the time of the album's release and I consider that he and I might have been somewhat similar, I'm pretty sure she's the reason he owned that record. Of course, as mentioned in another blog of mine, I still haven't bought Mariah Carey's Christmas album despite being drawn to its cover for, what? A decade now?

The only country album in Stuart's library was Glen Campbell's By the Time I Get to Phoenix. Technically, the only country album jacket in his library was that one, since the record is absent. I immediately thought of the fact that that album won the Album of the Year Grammy award in 1969 and wondered whether he had that as a curiosity. Kind of the way that I've owned some non-country albums over the years but never felt comfortable exploring that musical world.

I can't quite say what it is that keeps me from delving into more popular, non-country, music other than this sense that maybe I don't belong in that world. Maybe that's how he felt about country. Makes me wonder what he would make of my musical taste had he been around. For that matter, it makes me wonder what my musical taste might have been had he been around. Hell, I might have turned out to be the biggest Beatles fan of my generation had he been there to influence me.

27 August 2007

Rolling Stone's Coolest Albums of All Time

While in ear-X-tacy this afternoon, I saw a poster that reprinted a Rolling Stone cover that included their list of the "Coolest Albums of All Time."  So, naturally, going along with my list hunting & gathering, I have found the list and repost here the top 20 of the 50.

1. Velvet Underground - White Light/White Heat
2. Rolling Stones - Aftermath
3. James Brown - Live at the Apollo
4. Chuck Berry - The Great Twenty-Eight
5. Beastie Boys - Paul's Boutique
6. Blondie - Parallel Lines
7. Aretha Franklin - Spirit in the Dark
8. Massive Attack - Protection
9. Dusty Springfield - Dusty in Memphis
10. The Beatles - Revolver
11. Sly & the Family Stone - Fresh
12. Pavement - Wowee Zowee!
13. Steely Dan - Countdown to Ecstasy
14. Prince - 1999
15. Bob Dylan - John Wesley Harding
16. Bjork - Vespertine
17. Various - Heavyweight Sound: Blood and Fire Sampler
18. Otis Redding - The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul
19. Eric B. & Rakim - Paid in Full
20. Chic - Real People


Hey, look!  I don't own ANY of the coolest albums!  I would like to give a shout out to Merle Haggard, though, for placing 42 with "Songs I'll Always Sing."  Not even the mythically revered J.R. Cash placed an album on this list.  And I thought for sure At Folsom Prison would be on there.  Hell, I expected it to be among the top three.  I certainly never expected it to not even be among the top 50.

Cowboys & Indians Greatest Country Songs of All Time

Whilst rummaging through my magazine library (mostly because I knocked some off a coffee table chasing the cat), I was reminded of an issue of Cowboys & Indians published in 2004 that included the "100 Greatest Country Songs of All Time."  So, without further adieu, the top 20 were:

1. "Your Cheatin' Heart" by Hank Williams
2. "Crazy" by Patsy Cline
3. "He Stopped Loving Her Today" by George Jones
4. "Stand by Your Man" by Tammy Wynette
5. "El Paso" by Marty Robbins
6. "Can the Circle Be Unbroken" by The Carter Family
7. "Sweet Dreams" by Patsy Cline
8. "Help Me Make It Through the Night" by Sammi Smith
9. "Wabash Cannonball" by Roy Acuff
10. "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys" by Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson
11. "You Don't Know Me" by Eddy Arnold
12. "Coal Miner's Daughter" by Loretta Lynn
13. "Hey Good Lookin'" by Hank Williams
14. "Coat of Many Colors" by Dolly Parton
15. "Tennessee Waltz" by Patti Page
16. "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" by Kitty Wells
17. "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" by Hank Williams
18. "Rose Garden" by Lynn Anderson
19. "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" by Willie Nelson
20. "She Thinks I Still Care" by George Jones


Like the Rolling Stone list of greatest songs, I'm sure the actual title of this list should be, "Greatest Country Recordings of All Time," but, again, it's their list, not mine.  I have several thoughts as I peruse this list, the first of which being how many recordings I don't think I have.  If I have "Wabash Cannonball" or "You Don't Know Me," I'm unaware of them.  The second thought I have is how the issue in which this list appeared featured a cover article on the passing of Johnny Cash, who didn't even hit in the top 20.  Finally, I'm reminded just how badassed Hank Williams was (or is, depending on your perspective).  I mean, the guy placed three songs in this list, wrote all three by himself, and I don't know that I could argue with any of them being on this list.

Rolling Stone Greatest Songs

Another list from the editors of The Rolling Stone.  This time, they ranked the 500 greatest songs of all time.  Once more, I will only post the top 20, but I encourage you to visit their website to view the complete list.

1."Like a Rolling Stone," Bob Dylan
2. "Satisfaction," The Rolling Stones
3. "Imagine," John Lennon
4."What's Going On," Marvin Gaye
5. "Respect," Aretha Franklin
6."Good Vibrations," The Beach Boys
7."Johnny B. Goode," Chuck Berry
8."Hey Jude," The Beatles
9."Smells Like Teen Spirit," Nirvana
10."What'd I Say," Ray Charles
11."My Generation," The Who
12."A Change Is Gonna Come," Sam Cooke
13."Yesterday," The Beatles
14."Blowin' in the Wind," Bob Dylan
15."London Calling," The Clash
16."I Want to Hold Your Hand," The Beatles
17."Purple Haze," Jimi Hendrix
18."Maybellene," Chuck Berry
19."Hound Dog," Elvis Presley
20."Let It Be," The Beatles


You know, I have made no secret of not "getting" The Beatles, but can even a Beatles fan explain to me what makes "I Want to Hold Your Hand" a greater song than "Let It Be?"  I'd also like to note that it seems the RS editors really meant to call this a list of Greatest Song Recordings, because there are several songs on the list that are the same song, but recorded by different artists.  Whether Elvis sings "Hound Dog" or I do, the song is still "Hound Dog."  His iconic recording, however, will probably stand out more to the average listener than mine.  And, I will confess right now that there is about an entire quarter of the top 20 that I don't even know how the song goes, including "Like a Rolling Stone."By my count, I think I have five of the top 20 in my personal library.  Maybe.  I can't say for sure about "Respect" or "What'd I Say," but I know I have "Good Vibrations,""Johnny B. Goode" and "Hound Dog."

American Film Institute Top Movie Songs of All Time


I just found the next two lists, each from the American Film Institute.  This one ranks the Top Movie Songs of All Time.  Now, as I understand it, the song may have been previously recorded, so long as it was employed in a significant manner within the film in which it appeared.  Their list only credits the song and the film; where I know the actual performer in question, I have provided it.  I will endeavour to revise this list at some point to give the complete artist information.

1. "Over the Rainbow" The Wizard of Oz (1939)
2. "As Time Goes By" 
Casablanca (1942)
3. "Singin' in the Rain" 
Singin' in the Rain (1952)
4. "Moon River" 
Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
5. "White Christmas" 
Holiday Inn (1942)
6. "Mrs. Robinson" 
The Graduate (1967)
7. "When You Wish Upon a Star" 
Pinocchio (1940)
8. "The Way We Were" 
The Way We Were (1973)
9. "Stayin' Alive" 
Saturday Night Fever (1977)
10. "The Sound of Music" 
The Sound of Music (1965)
11. "The Man That Got Away" 
A Star Is Born (1954)
12. "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" 
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
13. "People" 
Funny Girl (1968)
14. "My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion from 
Titanic (1997)
15. "Cheek to Cheek" 
Top Hat (1935)
16. "Evergreen (Love Theme from 
A Star Is Born)" A Star Is Born (1976)
17. "I Could Have Danced All Night" 
My Fair Lady (1964)
18. "Cabaret" 
Cabaret (1972)
19. "Some Day My Prince Will Come" 
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
20. "Somewhere" 
West Side Story (1961)


I've seen five of the films cited.  I can't really say I have anything to say about this list, other than I was kinda surprised that "I Need a Hero" didn't make the 100.  I never saw the film it was from (Footloose, maybe?) but I remember back in the late 90's, Paramount strung together a promo spot at the beginning of several of their VHS action titles setting clips from the movies to that song.  It was pretty cool, actually.  Made me want to watch Serpico.  Still haven't, mind you, but that montage made me want to.

American Film Institute Top Film Scores of All Time

Another AFI list, this one ranks the greatest film scores of all time.  Since the original list only ran to 25, I will only include the top 10 here.  (I don't want to steal the AFI's thunder.)  The complete list can be retreived from the AFI website simply by registering (which is free, anyway).  I highly recommend you do this, because it's a neat website from what I've seen.


Star Wars Main Theme sheet music
1. Star Wars (John Williams)
2. Gone with the Wind (Max Steiner)
3. Lawrence of Arabia (Maurice Jarre)
4. Psycho (1960) (Bernard Herrmann)
5. The Godfather (Nino Rota)
6. Jaws (John Williams)
7. Laura (David Raksin)
8. The Magnificent Seven (Elmer Bernstein)
9. Chinatown (Jerry Goldsmith)
10. High Noon (Dimitri Tiomkin)

At one point, I owned soundtrack albums of three of these ten (Star Wars, Jaws and The Godfather).  I don't even remember what happened to Jaws and The Godfather, but I currently have the 2004 re-mastered release of Star Wars as well as two copies of the original LP double album.  I've looked off and on for Maurice Jarre's score to Lawrence of Arabia, because it really is a very strongly composed score with great themes, but it seems the only copies that are affordable are new recordings of his score.  The original recordings were lost in a fire or flood or swarm of locusts or some such disaster.  Maybe I'll track it down on LP if and when I get the new computer-ready turntable I'm thinking about getting in the fall.  I have Jarre's Doctor Zhivago on LP.

Also, I'd like to observe that you could really do an entire list of just John Williams film scores.  How his scores to Jurassic Park and Schindler's List failed to make this list is beyond me.  Maybe Star Wars and Jaws were considered the iconic ones, which would be impossible to dispute, but I think those other two are probably even better.  Surely, had the list been longer than 25, they would have made at least the 50-26 range.  I've also always loved James Horner's score for Glory, which is an oft-overlooked masterpiece.

25 August 2007

Country Weekly's Greatest Albums

One more subjective list against which to check your own library.  This list was compiled by the editorial staff of Country Weekly and was published in their 10th anniversary issue.  I should note that they only ranked albums released during their publication run, which began in 1994.  The cover date of the issue in which the list appeared was March 16, 2004.

1. Fly, Dixie Chicks
2. Double Live, Garth Brooks
3. Drive, Alan Jackson
4. The Woman in Me, Shania Twain
5. Not a Moment Too Soon, Tim McGraw
6. O Brother, Where Art Thou? Soundtrack
7. Blue Clear Sky, George Strait
8. Breathe, Faith Hill
9. American Recordings, Johnny Cash
10. How Do You Like Me Now?! Toby Keith
11. Blue, LeAnn Rimes
12. Red Dirt Road, Brooks & Dunn
13. New Favorite, Alison Kraus + Union Station
14. Did I Shave My Legs for This? Deana Carter
15. The Key, Vince Gill
16. Wide Open Spaces, Dixie Chicks
17. Come on Over, Shania Twain
18. No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems, Kenny Chesney
19. Unleashed, Toby Keith
20. Nothin' but the Taillights, Clint Black


The only one I don't have is Vince Gill's The Key.  I've got the rest of the list if anyone wants to see it and can't find it online.

23 August 2007

Rolling Stone's Greatest Albums

The following are the top twenty albums according to The Rolling Stone.  Check to see if the critics like what you own!  Please note that the list shamefully includes hits compilations.  Check The Rolling Stone's website for the complete 500 album list!
  1. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles
  2. Pet Sounds, The Beach Boys
  3. Revolver, The Beatles
  4. Highway 61 Revisited, Bob Dylan
  5. Rubber Soul, The Beatles
  6. What's Going On, Marvin Gaye
  7. Exile on Main Street, The Rolling Stones
  8. London Calling, The Clash
  9. Blonde on Blonde, Bob Dylan
  10. The Beatles ("The White Album"), The Beatles
  11. The Sun Sessions, Elvis Presley
  12. Kind of Blue, Miles Davis
  13. Velvet Underground and Nico, The Velvet Underground
  14. Abbey Road, The Beatles
  15. Are You Experienced?, The Jimi Hendrix Experience
  16. Blood on the Tracks, Bob Dylan
  17. Nevermind, Nirvana
  18. Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen
  19. Astral Weeks, Van Morrison
  20. Thriller, Michael Jackson
Somewhere I think I have a copy of Born to Run...and that's it for me.  Stupid Rolling Stone critics and their Beatles obsession.  Give me one good reason that William Shatner's Has Been isn't better than Abbey Road!

RIAA Top Selling Albums of All Time

The RIAA has certified the following albums as the best selling of all time.  Check to see if the masses agree with what you've bought!  These are the top 20, and unfortunately, the RIAA does not exclude hits compilations from their albums list.  Check with RIAA.org to see the entire list of albums certified for 5 million or more units!
  1. The Eagles, Their Greatest Hits (29m)
  2. Michael Jackson, Thriller (27m)
  3. Pink Floyd, The Wall (23m)
  4. Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin IV (23m)
  5. AC/DC, Back in Black (21m)
  6. Billy Joel, Greatest Hits, Volume I & Volume II (21m)
  7. Garth Brooks, Double Live (20m)
  8. Shania Twain, Come on Over (20m)
  9. Fleetwood Mac, Rumours (19m)
  10. The Beatles, The Beatles (19m)
  11. Boston, Boston (17m)
  12. Whitney Houston, The Bodyguard (Soundtrack) (17m)
  13. Led Zeppelin, Physical Graffiti (16m)
  14. Garth Brooks, No Fences (16m)
  15. The Eagles, Hotel California (16m)
  16. Elton John, Greatest Hits (16m)
  17. Alanis Morissette, Jagged Little Pill (16m)
  18. The Beatles, The Beatles 1967-1970 (16m)
  19. Hootie & the Blowfish, Cracked Rear View (16m)
  20. Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon (15m)
Put me down for 5, believe it or not!  I have the two by Garth, Shania and Billy Joel's Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II and, as I recently discovered, I have the greatest selling "album" of all time!