Ted, Just Admit It...This Album Is Awesome!
In the annals of rock and roll history there have been numerous groundbreaking and important albums released, way too many to mention in a short list here. “Game changers” from Sgt. Peppers to Enter the 36 Chambers are discussed, disputed, diluted and written about ad nauseam. From talking heads on VH1 (and bloggers such as us) to the employees of record and music stores worldwide, there are oft agreed upon standards of excellence that these records have established. You will be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t at least appreciate the significance of OK Computer or the influence of London Calling.
In the past thirty years or so you can probably list quite a few records that are “instant classics” in various genres (again, won’t even try to start naming them). But over time I am starting to get the feeling that the wrong album is being championed to the forefront of “alternative” rock classics: Nirvana’s Nevermind. Now before I go on let me please state that I am a fan of the band and the album and in no way, shape, or form am I trying to devalue the record’s greatness. Like many other classic albums, it’s pretty much agreed upon that Nevermind was a game changer. The issue is, I think people are forgetting that perhaps an even greater and more influential album was released a few years earlier than Nevermind. An album that in hindsight seems almost more groundbreaking than it did when it was first released. An album that, unlike the claim by many that Nevermind was the “death of hair metal” actually was the beginning of the end of it. The album I am referring to is Jane’s Addiction’s Nothing’s Shocking.
Let’s go back to the mid-to-late-80’s when anyone on the wrong side of U2 and REM were pretty much reaching the end of their runs in the musical spotlight. Hair metal had taken over “real” metal as the most popular form of hard rock entertainment. While the salad days of hip hop were beginning, the end was near for bands like Poison, Ratt, and Motley Crue. Metallica was the lone wolf in the hard rock realm still holding on to the glory years of 70’s British New Wave of Metal while forging new ground (and a genre) with thrash. But girls didn’t really listen to Metallica. You still made out to power ballads by Warrant and if you were lucky, some slower Van Halen songs.
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These Top 10 Lists are impossible. I don’t know why we subject ourselves to doing them, but we do. And picking the Top 10 Best Live Albums is a particularly tough one, as easy as it might seem on the surface.
It’s hard enough just to get the performance/recording of actual live albums right, let alone properly assessing them in some form of a list. There’s always that impossible tightrope walk between the best performances and the hit songs; between the idea of releasing one complete show and mixing together the best sounding tracks from different nights. Depending on the band, and the expectations of their listeners, there are a myriad of stumbling blocks and inevitable drawbacks to the pursuit of a good live album.
How did this guy not make the list?
It’s an oxymoron within itself, the live album. Truly LIVE music isn’t really live when you listen back to it later. At its worst, it’s simply the songs you know but with canned crowd noise. But at its best, it can actually convey the energy and joy of the original performance (just as a “studio album” can capture a great take, that was technically played “live,” even if just in front of 3 engineers and not 3,000 screaming fans).
The difficult thing in identifying what I would deem the Top 10 Best Live Albums, for me, is the fact that it could be argued that the bands I most admire as live acts haven’t really made a truly great live album. Prince, The Roots, Radiohead, The Who, Black Crowes, and Led Zeppelin have all made attempts, but for some reason they haven’t quite nailed it yet on an official live release. (Maybe The Who and Zeppelin have come close, but for some reason they lack a flawless go-to set). U2, while they’ll make the honorable mentions list with Under a Blood Red Sky, I still feel like they are missing a career-spanning (but not too monstrous) live set. Continue reading →
This is a guest post authored by Chuck Vespucci
Yes, it's been almost 20 years!!!
SPIN has released a collection of artists covering Nirvana’s Nevermind album. As we are nearing the 20th anniversary of said albums release I think we may want to prepare ourselves for a heavy push of consumer nostalgia. Thankfully this collection is FREE via SPIN.
Here is a track-by-track review.
Smell’s Like Teen Spirit – Meat Puppets
It sounds like the Meat Puppets covering Nirvana. Sad.
In Bloom – Butch Walker and the Black Widows
Nirvana filtered through the mixing console of Butch. I almost listened to the entire track.
Come As You Are – Midnight Juggernauts
Awesome. A novel interpretation of a modern classic. I couldn’t even recognize the original track until the vocals started. Good Job!
Breed – Titus Andronicus
This sounds like an audition for a distortion/wah pedal. Imagine the original recording without the fabulous production, great performances and raw power.
Lithium – The Vaselines
Ewwww (in a good way) – Haunting and subtle. They almost sound like they knew what they were doing.
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An awesome painting by David Choe
It’s always fun to think about various “what ifs?” in both pop culture and history. What if The Beatles didn’t break up? What if someone went back to 1931 Germany and killed Hitler? What if…
In an ode to Chuck Klosterman’s “What If Kurt Cobain Didn’t Die?” piece I am inclined to offer a timeline of events (mostly musical) that would have occurred if Jimi Hendrix didn’t die in 1970.
After the release of Cry of Love, in which Hendrix tried his best to fuse the Band of Gypsies with The Experience, Jimi’s manager Chas Chandler is contacted by Miles Davis. The two schedule a summer jam session at Electric Ladyland in New York City. The recording is never officially released but becomes a popular bootleg that shows Jimi moving into more toned down, yet improvisational-based funk style of playing guitar. There are talks of future sessions that would include Sly Stone, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, and Eddie Hazel.
Jimi officially declares the end of The Experience after forgoing the release of First Rays of the New Rising Sun in favor of releasing an album and touring with Miles Davis. The album, Onyx, reaches #8 on the charts with a sound that Robert Christgau reported as, “a perfect blend of each virtuoso’s best elements: Jimi’s raw yet fluent guitar playing mixed with Mile’s sparse and moody tones.” Their back up band, consisting of Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock, Elvin Jones, and Stevie Winwood, tour America with Sly & The Family Stone as the opening act. Their single, “Broken Windows,” reaches the top ten in both America and England.
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1. Sid Vicious
Will any argue that this non talented, drug addicted, pathetic human being doesn’t deserve to be on this list? Let break it down: he couldn’t play bass, he couldn’t sing, he murdered his girlfriend, and he was so fucked up most the time, he would wear swastika t-shirts as some sort of punk rock statement. For some reason, legions of fans of the Sex Pistols have glorified and deified this man into some Godfather of the Punk Movement while greats like Iggy Pop, Joe Strummer (who had more talent in his left ass cheek than Sid had in his entire body), and Joey Ramone, though get their dues, are no where near the legend that Sid is. The most he ever contributed to music was an attitude.
2. Jim Morrison
As a friend recently told me, “Jim Morrison is a drunk stripper who was somehow romanticized into the greatest rock poet of a generation”. No one is questioning his abilities as a front man (behind Mick Jagger and David Lee Roth, it doesn’t get much better than Morrison). But to have movies made about his life, and book after book written about his lyrical genius is absurd to me. I love the Doors and their music. But lets face it, he wasn’t even close to being the best lyricist of his generation (can anyone say “Dylan”?), and his voice was a drunken howl at best. Though The Doors influence can still be heard throughout modern music, and Morrison truly was one of the first rock-n-roll clichés, I cant help but think that if not for Rolling Stone magazine, classic rock radio, and Oliver Stone, Jim Morrison would be about as popular as John Densmore (don’t know who he is? Exactly)
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