The Great Wall of Music: Albums 420 – 411

  1. Buddy Holly and the Crickets – The Chirping Crickets

It seems Rolling Stone decided to take a bunch of albums from the ‘50s to the ‘70s and put them back to back to back. If you’re listening to all of these in the same day or even remotely together, it feels like you’re in a time warp. As renown as Buddy Holly is, I don’t know if I’ve ever listened to a Buddy Holly song. Their debut album is filled with short but sweet rockabilly songs. Before you know it, it’s over.

Highlights: Oh Boy, Not Fade Away, Last Night

  1. Portishead – Dummy

So, this is Trip-Hop. Maybe it takes a few more listens but I’m not quite sure I’m a fan. Honestly, it’s kind of creepy/haunting, Beth Gibbon’s voice only adds to this effect. I will say this though, between the instrumentals and the melody, it’s easy to find yourself just vibing to the album. But when you really listen, at least when I really listen, it almost feels like a juxtaposition of two things that shouldn’t be together. There are these hip hop vibes and then contrary vocals. But perhaps, that’s the charm: these two things that don’t actually belong together that surprisingly work in their own way.
Highlights: Strangers, It’s A Fire

  1. Paul McCartney and the Wings – Band on the Run

 It’s always interesting when bands break up and pursue other projects. You get to see who brought what to the table and who was the real brains behind the operation. It either exposes the talent or lack of in an artist. This is third album from this group and Paul’s fifth since the end of The Beatles. “Jet” reminds us why McCartney is one of the greatest to ever do it. McCartney produced this thing and you can hear the more experimental elements in “Picasso’s Last Words”, which can be at time as abstract as a Picasso painting. Apparently, they challenged Paul to see if he could write a song about anything and an article about Picasso was lying around. This song was the product. I remember hearing the chorus from “Band on the Run” before but I didn’t know it was connected to this project, nor did I know the song itself was as progressive as it was. Where it ends is nowhere near where you start off. But there’s a big finish to the album that bringing us back full circle.

Highlights: Jet, Let Me Roll It, No Words, Picasso’s Last Words (Drink To Me)

  1. U2 – Boy

 I think I’m so used to the atmospheric, stadium anthem U2 that listening to this sounds like a completely different band. I guess this makes sense as it’s U2’s first album.. This is where punk meets ‘80s new wave. Twilight” reminds me a bit of The Cure, other songs have a bit more grit to them. At the same time, you still hear glimmers of what would eventually come from this band (“Into the Heart” being a prime example). I need more time with this one.

Highlights: Twilight, Into the Heart, The Electric Co.

  1. Tom Waits – Mule Variations

I know I said Notorious B.I.G. is the only artist to make me afraid for my life, but Tom Waits is a close second. The man’s voice has always terrified me. If you’ve ever listened to the guy talk, you know where Heath Ledger got his inspiration for The Joker. Needless to say, this was my first Tom Waits record. It’s scratchy, backwoods, bluesy and folky all at the same time. “Hold On” reminded me a bit of Springsteen. Surprisingly I found myself enjoying different pieces of this project. It’s a solid introduction to what can be an iconic but strange artist to get into. I’m pretty sure “You got to get behind the mule in the morning and plow” is going to be my new motto.

Highlights: Big in Japan, Hold On, House Where Nobody Lives, Pony

  1. Van Halen – Van Halen

Van Halen’s been on my radar ever since I was a teenager and Eddie Van Halen was named the best guitarist of all time, citing “Eruption” as proof. Well, what I didn’t know was that Eruption was on this album. I can only imagine how nuts this must have been upon first release. This is music you turn up on full blast in your room and your parents knock on your door, telling you to turn that crap down.

Highlights: Eruption, You Really Got Me

  1. The Go-Go’s – The Beauty and the Beat

I don’t know how much more iconic it gets in terms of pop music than these ladies. This has been labeled the cornerstone for new wave music and is known as one of the strongest debuts of all time. Even if you don’t know anything about anything, chances are you’ve heard “We Got The Beat.”  You may have even heard “Our Lips Are Sealed.” Those songs are everywhere. It’s what comes on when you’re at the Hard Rock Café, paying $14 for that burger, watching the music videos they show you to assuage your broken heart and empty wallet.

Highlights: Our Lips Are Sealed, Lust To Love, We Got the Beat

  1. Minutemen – Double Nickle on the Dime

Who in the world puts 43 songs on an album? Granted most songs are about a minute and a half, it’s still 43 songs. 43 punk songs.  Honestly, I feel like this album is one that I’d have to listen to repeatedly before I like it. And the main reason I’d like it is because I’m supposed to and for the legacy it carries. For a punk rock band, these guys can get technical and genre-bending. There’s spoken word, funky bass lines, and hardcore-like yelling. In some ways, that’s always what was great about punk music. You didn’t have to be a particularly great vocalist. It was in the message and the message is definitely here.

Highlights: Vietnam, Do You Want New Wave or Do You Want The Truth, Corona, History Lesson Part II, Dr. Wu

  1. Wire – Pink Flag

Half the amount of songs, half the length of Minutemen but still punk nonetheless. Commercially this album didn’t do well but still received acclaim from critics. Not quite as fast or as reckless as Minutemen. “Lowdown” almost reminds me of The Clash. Similar to a few other albums on the list I found the latter half other album more enjoyable.

Highlights: Ex Lion Tamer, Fragile, Mannequin, Feeling Called Love.

  1. Eric Clapton – 461 Ocean Boulevard

My first Eric Clapton record. This is coming off the heels of heroin addiction. You hear the repentance in guitar and the organ of “Give Me Strength.” Even Clapton’s voice sounds broken. While there are hints of reggae on this album, this guitar tone is all Clapton. This is where you get the famous “I Shot The Sherriff” cover. “Please Be With Me” sounds like where John Mayer got his inspiration on “Waiting On The Day”, “Let It Grow” sounds like “Stairway to Heaven.”

Highlights: Give Me Strength, I Shot the Sherriff, Please Be With Me, Steady Rolling Man

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