:: Friday, July 21, 2006 ::
100 albums that changed my life: 100-91
The countdown begins (with accompanying podcast).

100. Get the Knack, The Knack (1979)

Just to show you how much of a punk wannabe I really am, I thought the Knack was punk rock. When "My Sharona" hit the airwaves with a vengeance in the spring of '79, I thought, "This is it! Punk rock has arrived to the masses." Capitol records apparently thought the Knack would be the Next Big Thing, too, for the corporate guys spun this band as the Beatles reincarnate. (Note the similarities between the album's title and cover art and Meet the Beatles!.) But I was mistaken about the Knack. (So were the suits at Capitol.) Get the Knack was all about teenage hormones and runaway libido, not anarchy, No Future, teenage lobotomies or rage against the Man. Songs like "Lucinda," "Frustrated," "Good Girls Don't" and, of course, "My Sharona" were adolescent dreams of making it with the sweetheart of the cheerleading squad, that chick who'd have nothing to do with a loser like you. I was in junior college when this came out, and I'll never forget the way an ex-girlfriend cooed the chorus of "Good Girls Don't" to me in the middle of a heavy petting session. Ah, mammaries...er, I mean, memories. Anyway, I still think Get the Knack is a darn good record, punk or not. It includes some fine power pop and helped introduce the New Wave sound to a mass audience. I still rock out to "My Sharona" and its kickass guitar solo. Sigh. Once a punk wannabe, always a punk wannabe.

99. Aja, Steely Dan (1977)

One of my first 45s ever was Steely Dan's "Do It Again," which I purchased way back in junior high ('73 or '74). I really digged the sound of the sitar on that record -- for the first 700 or so plays. After that, its twang started to wear on me. And so did Steely Dan. Their next single, "Reeling in the Years," was weird lyrics and lead-guitar masturbation. A couple of years later, Pretzel Logic came out, and it was alright. But it was the mid-70s and nothing much was happening music-wise. What else was I going to do, listen to Ted Nugent? Styx? REO Speedwagon? Kansas? Frampton Comes Alive? Well, unfortunately, yes. Those were dark days, my friend. Dark days indeed. We had no choices. We had no Internet -- only AM radio and occasionally at night, an FM signal. So, when Steely Dan went jazzy with Aja in '77,well, this was something fresh and new. The first time I heard "Deacon Blue" on the radio, I couldn't believe it was Steely Dan. This album carries the jazz-rock fusion throughout. It's loaded with some great tunes: "Peg," "Josie" and "Black Cow" are among my faves.

98. World Without Tears, Lucinda Williams (2003)

One of my two favorite albums by this Louisiana-born songwriter. Lucinda Williams's lyrics are flash fiction -- powerful short stories wrapped in a three-minute tune. And her delivery -- that raw voice, plaintive and urgent and hurting and sultry -- it stirs something down deep inside. She taps into your soul while tapping her southern roots. Lucinda blends blues and Hank Williams-style hard country with rockabilly and grits for a great combination. Sometimes she sounds like she's half drunk. Other times she just sounds totally wasted or hungover. I love that hard country sound.

97. Elephant, the White Stripes (2003)

Okay, I know Jack White is getting a bit tiresome these days. His experiment with the Raconteurs is interesting, yes. But he's getting a bit overexposed here lately. Still, you've got to give him and Meg White credit. As the White Stripes, Jack and Meg White have reinvigorated garage rock, if not reinvented the sound, while paying homage to some Delta Blues and giving us some terrific rock and roll in the process. Elephant is one of their gems.

96. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco (2002)

Wilco's Jeff Tweedy delivers some of his best songwriting to date on this CD. "Heavy Metal Drummer" takes me back to the summers of my youth: "Playing KISS records, beautiful, and stoned." Ahem. Yeah, that about sums it up. This was the first Wilco CD I'd ever really listened to, and it got me hooked. Sadly, none of their other output matches the beauty and simplicity of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

95. Boston, Boston (1976)

Man, don't get me started on this one. Heavy on the synthesizer, self-indulgent guitar solos, a shrieking lead singer -- the consummate '70s prog-rock album, right? Not so fast. Boston is more than a geeky MIT grad (Tom Scholz) tinkering in a sound studio. It's also more than "More Than a Feeling." For one of the classic Stone Age '70s rock albums, it's tunes are tight, not meandering. This isn't Emerson, Lake and Palmer. This band, just another band out of Boston, took the country by storm in '76. I remember stumbling over "More Than a Feeling" and "Peace of Mind" on my old acoustic every night after school, trying to play along with the record, trying to memorize the fingering and chord shifts and rhythm. This album was one of the records that taught me how to play -- not like Tom Scholz, mind you, but to play rhythm and to feel the rhythm through the strings.

94. Speaking in Tongues, Talking Heads (1983)

With their sixth album, David Byrne and company continued to explore the mysterious worlds of funky beats, polyrythyms and odd lyrics. By the time this record came out in '83, my final year of college, the Heads had graduated fully from the old CBGBs gang into a full-fledged pop group. There's not a thing at all punk or new wave on this record. The Talking Heads showed they could morph into something completely different.

93. De Stijl, the White Stripes (2000)

More great White Stripes (see 97, above). Only rawer, harsher. Really, it's the best of the lot.

92. Hotel California, the Eagles (1976)

This is the record that made me hate the '70s, made me turn to punk and new wave as the answer to all that was wrong with corporate rock. I awaiting Hotel California with such expectation. The Eagles! With Joe Walsh! Finally, these mellow country rockers will start playing some real rock and roll! I was pissed off when I first heard the album. Too mellow. Too slick. Too overhyped. The Eagles overpromised and underdelivered. Ever get the feeling you've been cheated? Johnny Rotten wasn't talking about this record when he spouted that line, but he couldn't have expressed my sentiments about Hotel California any better. Over time, however, I grew to appreciate its production values, and "Hotel California" is one of those songs that just grows on you. And they do let Joe do his gee-tar thang on "Victim of Love."

91. Paranoid, Black Sabbath (1970)

Before Geezer was a geezer, before Ozzy was a complete burnout, there was Black Sabbath. This is music from my juvenile delinquency phase. Who knew "War Pigs" was a political statement? All we cared about was the hard, heavey metal noise, man! Songs like "Iron Man" sounded like they just came out of the foundry. I am Ironnnnn Mannnnnnn.


The Knack, "Good Girls Don't" (from Get the Knack)
Steely Dan, "Big Black Cow" (from Aja)
Lucinda Williams, "Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings" (from World Without Tears)
The White Stripes, "Hypnotize" (from Elephant)
Wilco, "War on War" (from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot)
Boston, "More Than a Feeling" (from Boston)
Talking Heads, "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)" (from Speaking in Tongues)
The White Stripes, "Truth Doesn't Make a Noise" (from De Stijl)
The Eagles, "Victim of Love" (from Hotel California)
Black Sabbath, "Fairies Wear Boots" (from Paranoid)

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:: Andrew 07:22 + ::

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