Saturday, August 28, 2010
Albums: I like 'em!
There used to be a time when buying an album meant having a collection of songs from a band that defined where they were in the careers or a certain point in the evolution of music. The concept of the "album" has largely been lost on most mainstream artists these days. The emergence of the .mp3 format and the internet have destroyed what it means to make a complete album. Most "artists" now compile songs on a CD hoping that 2 or 3 of those songs are good enough to chart as singles and sell a bunch on iTunes or some other website that sells songs individually. Now, don't get me wrong.....that doesn't make the music itself bad. Nor is there anything inherently wrong with wanting to sell songs. But, it has shoved aside, what I feel to be a very important part of listening to music. Putting an album on and enjoying the entire thing because it was meant to be listened to as a whole.
I won't throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are some bands that seem to still work hard on putting together a real collection of songs that flow and lead into one another, fit a common theme, or define a sound an artist/band is working on. Bands/artists (that are currently working) like this include, but certainly are not limited to Steve Earle, Wilco, My Morning Jacket, Lucinda Williams, Metallica, Beck, Alejandro Escoveda, Counting Crows, Joe Henry, John Mellencamp, and REM.. Myself, I really do like song collections from various artists, but the album is where my heart lies. I was looking over some Top Albums Of All-Time lists and Rolling Stone included "Greatest Hits" compilations, which in my opinion are not albums. They are collections of songs from different times in an artists career. You only have to make it to #21 before Rolling Stone had a "best of" collection (Chuck Berry, The Great Twenty Eight) nestled in ahead of such landmark albums as "Rumors"- Fleetwood Mac, "Hotel California"- The Eagles, and "Songs In The Key Of Life"- Stevie Wonder. What a travesty. By that standard, the #1 collection that was released by Apple some time ago that featured only the songs by the Beatles that reached the top, would be the greatest album EVER. But it's NOT an album. Rolling Stone has aided in watering down what an album is.
I like many different kinds of music. So much so, that I really don't consider genres unless I pretty well have to in conversation. For my money, a good Son Volt album (Trace) is no less country than a Waylon Jennings record (Honky Tonk Heroes). Nor is it any more rock n roll. We get hung up on genre and many times that keeps us away from hearing music we would probably enjoy. When I hear someone say "I don't like country music" and then they say they like Johnny Cash, it leads me to believe that the person probably is not going to have the pleasure of enjoying artists like Merle Haggard, Steve Earle, Slaid Cleaves, or Willie Nelson, simply because they are considered to be country or alt.country. I used to tell people I didn't like "metal", but that really wasn't entirely true, because I (at different times and moods) can enjoy Quiet Riot, Metallica, Led Zeppelin, Def Leppard, and others. So, if I defined all those bands as metal and decided I wouldn't listen to metal, then I would miss out on some stuff I like.
Which brings me to the very point of this blog entry; My Favorite Albums! No rhyme or reason. No real order. Just a list of albums that, regardless of what genre someone may want to put them in, really do it for me as a whole and not just as small pieces. I really hope if any of these sound appealing that maybe one of the three people that read this blog will try out an album or two off my list. Put 'em on the iPod, lay back on the couch, put on headphones and lose yourself in the sounds and songwriting. It's very relaxing to zone out for about 45 minutes or so a couple of times a week.
The Jayhawks "The Sound Of Lies"-- Top quality album. As one song ends, it seems to breed into another song that is superior than the last. It has a great flow and for anyone who likes The Byrds, Beatles, or Fleetwood Mac, you would probably dig this great record. "Bottomless Cup" and "16 Down" are great songs that deserved more people to hear them. This band has yet to make what I'd say is a disappointing album. If I had to say that one album out of this five was a flowing, wholly satisfying and immersive record, I'd have to say this one is.
Here are a few honorable mentions that I will discuss on another blog, as this entry is getting quite lengthy. So, if you actually liked this, look for me to do a follow up pretty soon!
Led Zeppelin "Houses Of The Holy"
The Eagles "The Long Run"
Michael Jackson "Thriller"
Wilco "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot"
Pink Floyd "Dark Side Of The Moon"