Bad (1987) by Michael Jackson

Categories: 1987 and Music.

I grew up with “Fat” and have a hard time separating the real song, the title track of this record, from its parody. But I haven’t listened to “Fat” in so long. Listening to Bad for the first time (and to the remaster, no less), I can’t help but wonder, “does “Fat” sound this terrible too?” Read More

Your Arsenal (1992) by Morrissey

Categories: 1992 and Music.

I hate Morrissey, both personally, as I find him an objectionable human being and cannot understand why anyone would find him charming, and musically, as I find The Smiths really underwhelming and Morrissey’s solo music (that I’ve heard) to be hilariously middlebrow for someone so full of attitude. Morrissey talks a lot about a certain type of music and then makes music very different from that. He basically doesn’t walk his own talk. And his music is boring. Read More

Imperial Bedroom (1982) by Elvis Costello and the Attractions

Categories: 1982 and Music.

Though I haven’t heard the couple previous albums to this one, this still feels like a pretty big stylistic left turn for Costello. The production and arrangements are both noticeably different from the first Attractions record (or his first few solo albums). It’s a brave move (if it is indeed a move) as he could easily have just put out a new set of songs without deliberate messing with his style. Read More

Easy Does it (1970) by Al Kooper

Categories: 1970 and Music.

By the time Kooper released this double album in 1970 he had put out 6 albums (including this one) in something like 2 years. Yes, two of those were partially improvised, but Kooper was the prime creative force of all of them. So it should come as no surprise that this record feels like it doesn’t have enough content for its length. Some of the covers are good (and sometimes they are quite idiosyncratic) but Kooper’s songs themselves are not great. He’s pulled back on his artsiness on this record but he doesn’t have enough good songs and just seems Read More

I Stand Alone (1968) by Al Kooper

Categories: 1968 and Music.

When I was younger, I was utterly fascinated by Kooper’s career: how he went from a successful songwriter to a less successful session guitarist to one of the best rock keyboardists of his era (or, perhaps, ever) and the major creative force behind some interesting ventures in the late 60s. But, for whatever reason, it took me ages to get around to his solo stuff. Read More

Hotel California (1976) by Eagles

Categories: 2016 and Music.

Who is this record for? Clearly, it’s for a lot of people, as it sound somewhere between 20 and 30 million copies. But listening to it, I don’t know who it’s for. The rock tracks feel like they appeal to one group of people, and the sappy, over-produced soft rock ballads to another group. It’s amazing that this record, of all records, has become this successful. Read More

Night Moves (1976) by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band

Categories: 1976 and Music.

For much of my life I have had a hatred for “boomer nostalgia” – movies and music that lionize growing up in the 50s and 60s as if it was just the bees knees. I am getting to an age where I am finally able to better understand the appeal of such nostalgia – I’m likely a sucker for some nostalgia for growing up in the 80s and the 90s – but I still think that art that relies on a such a strong emotional pull to a particular generation probably can never be truly great art. Truly great art Read More

Face to Face (1966) by The Kinks

Categories: 1966 and Music.

I have come to the early Kinks records backwards, listening to their late 60s classics before these earlier records and so my experience of them is coloured by being far more familiar with Davies’ mature songs than his early songs, leading to me listening to his early songs and thinking they are not as good (shock of all shocks). Read More

Electric Warrior (1971) by T Rex

Categories: 1971 and Music.

I understand why this was such a big deal and why people continue to celebrate it: at the very apex of complicated, weird rock music, Bolan went out and put out 11 straight-ahead, catchy rock signs performed by a band with two guitars, bass and drums, with an image that was pretty unique. It made a big impression on a lot of people. As a record, I think it holds up pretty well – Bolan is a decent songwriter with a really strong knack for melody. I am not one who loves supposedly “disposable” music, but I don’t particularly find Read More

Pretenders II (1981)

Categories: 1981 and Music.

I have no idea why, but I’ve never had any interest in listening to The Pretenders. I don’t know what it was exactly but they never seemed like a band I should listen to. Maybe a little too mainstream rock for their own good, or something like that. So imagine my surprise when I hear this album and I actually like it. I like Hynde as a songwriter more often than not (something I was not expecting) and, on the whole, the record is grittier than I was expecting (and is much more “rock” than some much other 80s rock). Read More

Boston (1976)

Categories: 1976 and Music.

It is incredible to me the amount of time and energy that has been devoted to the foundational myth of this very boring, very average American arena rock band. To read wikipedia, or to listen to any classic rock radio station in the ’90s, you’d think this record was some kind of miracle of musical creativity or genius the way people feel they need to repeat the story of Scholz and these songs.(And, of course, the supposedly really great guitar sound.) It’s bizarre. And, after you’ve heard it more than once, the story is as boring and generic as their Read More

Bella Donna (1981) by Stevie Nicks

Categories: 1981 and Music.

I prefer Nicks’ songs to many of her bandmates’. But I still don’t absolutely love her songs (there are a few I really like, but not a ton). The advantage she has over a lot of her contemporaries (at least on this record) is that she and her producer have not yet realized it’s the ’80s. The result is that the sound of this album hasn’t dated like so much ’80s soft rock and pop and that makes it a lot more likable than some contemporary mainstream music. But this is still not music I’ve ever going to return to. Read More

Yardbirds aka Roger The Engineer (1966)

Categories: 1966 and Music.

The Yardbirds’ third album is definitely away from straight-ahead British blues towards psychedelia and even heavy metal (the intro to “Ever Since the World Began” almost sounds like a psychedelic Sabbath). And for that, it should be celebrated. And Beck does some (relatively) interesting things with his guitar, some of which likely don’t have much precedent in rock music (like that sustained note on that one song). But the songs are pretty weak. There’s a reason you don’t hear these on the radio. There’s quite a lot of filler – well played filler but filler nonetheless. For example “Hot House Read More

New York City You’re a Woman (1971) by Al Kooper

Categories: 1971 and Music.

Al Kooper fascinates me. He had a bizarre career: writing a hit pop song, becoming Dylan’s keyboardist, turning into a jazz rock pioneer and then having a career as a record producer. But despite my fascination, this is the first proper solo album of his I’ve heard. Maybe I’m disappointed because I was expecting something very different. Maybe I’m disappointed because, much like Kooper does here, I have mythologized his life a little too much. I don’t know. Reviews I have read compare this to Elton John around the same period. I have no idea if that’s apt or not Read More

Fly Like an Eagle (1976) by Steve Miller Band

Categories: 1976 and Music.

This is my first Steve Miller record, and I don’t get it. It makes sense that it’s his most popular, as there are 3 radio hits here. But it’s oddly constructed. It’s book-ended by tracks that try to sound futuristic (a ’70s attempt at it), with lots of ARP. As if Miller had just found out about this instrument the Who and the Floyd were fooling around with in 1970. But in the middle is straight ahead roots rock and roots pop, some okay covers and some completely unnecessary ones. But at least they don’t date themselves like his ARP Read More

Songs for Beginners (1971) by Graham Nash

Categories: 1971 and Music.

Graham Nash is my least favourite member of CSNY. Crosby is a great singer and an interesting guitarist. Stephen Stills is a good singer, a good guitarist and had interesting musical ideas. Neil Young is my favourite songwriter and one of the most unique guitar players in rock. Nash appears to pale in to comparison. But though Nash’s lyrics are often full of mindless hippiness and pseudo-profundity, they have aged far better than Crosby’s bizarre “hippy paranoia” and his “did I just blow your mind?!?!” persona, and better than Still’s blustery self-righteousness (all the more hypocritical for his real life Read More

Ram (1971) by Paul and Linda McCartney

Categories: 1971 and Music.

This album got bad reviews when it was released. However, time has been kind to it and some people now view it as one of his best. I can see both sides. I understand what people are saying when they view it as “the first indie pop album” (in content, not in concept, as McCartney, the best selling artist in history, is the last person who could ever release an indie album…). I prefer to think of it as the first “bedroom” pop album, only McCartney was that record, and this one has a band. The problem is that it Read More

Every Picture Tells a Story (1971) by Rod Stewart

Categories: 1971 and Music.

Though it’s hard for us to imagine now, at one point Rod Stewart was a vital, dare I say ‘cool,’ performer. He was involved in two of the great bands of the late ’60s and early ’70s and I have always heard good things about his early solo records. This one – his first big hit, to my knowledge – is the first one I’ve heard. It’s much easier to separate The Jeff Beck Group and The Faces from what Rod Stewart has become, but it feels harder with his solo stuff. I mean, he’s the driving creative force now, Read More

King of America (1986) by The Costello Show featuring the Attractions and Confederates

Categories: 1986 and Music.

Costello embraces American roots music and it mostly works. Costello’s songs are strong (though the cover of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” is entirely unnecessary) – stronger, in fact, than most of the bands embracing roots at the same time. But the album is hampered a bit by the ’80s production which occasionally intrudes (and which is in direct contrast to his performance at times). And, much like U2 (though, needless to say, this sounds nothing like U2), Costello’s embrace of American roots music feels a little bit like a suit of clothes he’s put on. That being said, it’s Read More

Destroyer (1976) by KISS

Categories: 1976 and Music.

I think you can regard Bob Ezrin as the “Phil Spector of the ’70s”; a man who focused on creating a dense wall of sound. And, though I don’t like this production style, I think it suits certain things. When Ezrin’s style matches the artist’s material, it works wonders (see, for instance, Berlin or The Wall). But when it doesn’t match the material, well…we get something like this. I don’t know what anyone involved was thinking here. I don’t know KISS beyond the singles  (this is the first album of theirs I’ve heard) but, beyond Ezrin’s work with Alice Cooper Read More