1. Guns n’ Roses – Breakdown (Use Your Illusion II, 1991) [singlepic id=216 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Lyrically, GNR had obviously grown up on this album, moving away from the juvenile drugs anthems that dominated their previous work. But also musically, the band was in fact at its peak on this album, containing some very strong rock songs. This one qualifies for mediocrity, but also manages to surprise with a country intro followed by a proggy piano. LA chemists that reinjected mainstream rock music with the demonic and shabby rock ‘n roll from the Stones, and like many predecessors, collapsed by withdrawing to the studio.
2. Kate Bush – L’Amour Looks Something Like You (The Kick Inside, 1978) [singlepic id=415 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Although it was already announced many, many times during the preceding years by the record labels, it was only during the late seventies that the sales of records started to stagnate. That must have been the reason for EMI to completely squeeze this album, for example by including some sexy posters of the then only 19 years old Kate Bush. A little bit paradoxical of course, as Bush should have represented the emancipation of women in rock music by becoming the first woman to reach number 1 in the singles charts with ‘Wuthering Heights’ as well as the first woman at the top of the album charts with The Kick Inside. No surprise Bush started her own label after the forced follow-up album to stay in control over her own work.
3. Jefferson Airplane – Triad (Crown of Creation, 1968) [singlepic id=240 w=80 h=50 float=left]
The previous song could at least be called slightly sexually fueled, this one simply describes the story of a threeway relationship written by David Crosby himself. Although The Byrds could hardly been called conservative, they rejected the song for being too daring after which Grace Slick gratefully accepted the gift. Jefferson Airplane, just like The Byrds, did not have any hitsingle success anymore for some time at that point, due to numerous radio station bans because of supposed drugs references. However, just like The Byrds, it continued to deliver some good albums, like this one. The song reminds of the original folk roots of the band and is in that way representative for the album, on which psychedelic rock slowly starts to peel into the country rock that would be dominant on the last real album of the original band: Volunteers. That album also had to face numerous radio bans in the liberal US, this time not because of drugs references but for, let’s say, ‘political’ reasons.
4. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Gloomy (Creedence Clearwater Revival, 1968) [singlepic id=414 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Maybe one of those bands from the same area that was somehow responsible for the change in course of the group mentioned above. At their own turn, they still propagate some psychedelic elements on their debut album, well illustrated by some long instrumental jams like this one and break-through single ‘Susie Q’, that got CCR some fame in the Bay Area. Not to forget the album sleeve that makes clear that CCR was willing to ride the psychedelic wave a little.
5. Blind Faith – Do What You Like (Blind Faith, 1969) [singlepic id=369 w=80 h=50 float=left]
One year later, at the other side of the ocean: blues rock is still king, but there’s also a wind blowing from another direction: prog rock. Just like in California, the own sound, in this case the muscled bass-percussion combo, is mingled with the new rising sound, witnessing the elaborate, Genesis-echoes from the near future by Steve Winwood on keyboards. Just like their prog colleagues, Blind Faith principally grabbed ships full of cash in the US by becoming a gigantic stadium act. Disbanded afterwards.
6. Islands –Volcanoes (Return to the Sea, 2006) [singlepic id=389 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Recording in the drummer’s bedroom, intro containing a telephone conversation, all pretty indie for sure. Unfortunately it can’t really compete with peers and countrymen like Sunset Rubdown, Apostle of Hustle and Arcade Fire. A little snooty.
7. Radiohead – Morning Mr. Magpie (The King of Limbs, 2011) [singlepic id=417 w=80 h=50 float=left]
If I ever wanna hear about a ‘Third Way’ again, its Radiohead’s one. Clearly echoes Thom Yorke’s soloalbum, but more exuberantly dressed thanks to the electric guitar riff and lots of other reworked ornaments. Courtesy of Johnny Greenwood.
8. Lambchop – Breath Deep (I Hope You’re Sitting Down/Jack’s Tulips, 1994) [singlepic id=416 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Kurt Wagner addressing you on a (apparently) way underrated debut albm. Many folk and country out there, well illustrated by the acoustic intro of this song. Lambchop’s line-up has been altered many, many times, but Wagner obviously forms the heart of this band, with one of the best senses of understatement ever heard.
9. The Rolling Stones – Brown Sugar (Sticky Fingers, 1971) [singlepic id=108 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Opening track and lead single of what is considered by some music professors as one of the best albums of all-time; sleeve designed by Andy Warhol (the Stones were artistically freed after breaking up with Decca Records) and riff ripped by Dandy Warhols. Whether the song was about Marsha Hunt or Claudia Lennear, old pictures of both are worthy of some research.
10. Jethro Tull – For a Thousand Mothers (Stand Up, 1969) [singlepic id=16 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Perhaps the crown juwel on this album, that definitely pushed Tull in the middle of the earlier mentioned prog wave. Just like elsewhere on the album, captain Anderson refers to his relationship with his parents, while his flute sounds more aggressive than ever. The album reached number one in the UK in September 1969, to be removed from that position by… Blind Faith.
1. Devendra Banhart – See Saw (Rejoicing in the Hands, 2004) [singlepic id=400 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Acoustic intro quickly followed by the recognizable voice of Banhart: an exhaustive summary of the man’s early work. Classified among a lot of genres, and in the end just not very enchanting, just funny at some points. Of course, when you’re called after the king of gods feat. Obi Wan Kenobi and release your albums on Young God Records, people tend to expect something special from you. Would raise his musical ambitions later, and with that move the remaining charm mentioned above also disappeared.
2. Madrugada – Running Out of Time (The Deep End, 2005) [singlepic id=403 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Murmuring and spooky guitar and drum sounds in the beginning, powerful female backing vocals towards the end: sounds like Nick Cave’s theatre, but turns out to be the Norwegian Madrugada with Sivert Hoyem on vocals. Debuted at the turn of the century, searched for a more experimental sound on their third album Grit (2002) and definitely broke through in their home country with the golden pair of this one and their live recordings at Vonnegut’s Trafalmadore. Wanted to follow up with a fifth album in 2007 when they were struck by the death of the guitarist (eventually released in 2008 as their final album).
3. Isis – The Beginning and the End (Oceanic, 2002) [singlepic id=402 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Another band that claimed their fame at the beginning of this century, but one I lost out of sight after one of their last live gigs. Started off as a heavy metal/hardcore band, but switched gears with this release, moving towards a more clear post rock sound. As such they were considered pioneers of the post-metal genre, that preserved the aggressive hardcore vocals I’m personally not a big fan of. Dissoluted in 2010.
4. Leonard Cohen – Dress Rehearsal Rag (Songs of Love and Hate, 1971) [singlepic id=74 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Also an acoustic intro, also followed by a recognizable voice, and this time one that is indeed enchanting. Although Cohen might never have been called after some king of gods, he was told that he was the descendant of Aaron the high priest, which also should have granted him a considerable amount of street credibility. Cohen initially tried to make a (Canadian) living with his poetry but moved to the American folk scene as that didn’t turn out well. After some hanging around in Warhol’s Factory and a couple of folk festival gigs, he was signed by Columbia Records, the label on which he released his debut album (and on which he clashed with producer John Simon). Cohen collaborated with Bob Johnston (Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme,…) on the next two albums, this being the second. The lyrical themes on the album are, well, principally love and hate. And of course a little depression, for example on this great track, that is rarely performed live by Cohen because of that reason. Recorded already in 1966 by Cohen disciple Judy ‘Blue Eyes’ Collins.
5. Fugazi – Margin Walker (13 Songs, 1989) [singlepic id=401 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Fucked Up, Got Ambushed, Zipped In. Guitarist and singer Ian MacKaye decided to form another band after the dissolution of Minor Threat and succeeds in the end of 1987 with a little help from Joe Lally, Brendan Canty and eventually Guy Picciotto. 1988 delivered two EP’s (this song was on the second with the same name) and a lot of touring, resulting in this release which combines those two EP’s instead of another debut album. Fugazi is one of those rare bands that never, never bended for great amounts of money and always stuck to its own approach in making music (decline of the Atlantic Records millions-deal, personally keeping the concert admissions as low as possible, DIY-recording,…). Dissoluted (although not officially) in 2003.
6. The Smashing Pumpkins – Porcelina of the Vast Oceans (Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, 1995) [singlepic id=332 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Awesome track on a genius album. As on almost every track on the album, you get it all: elaborate, mysterious intro, aggressive guitar solos and the melo-dramatic vocals of the master himself. Corgan founded the band in 1988 (Chicago) with rhythm guitarist James Iha, but was never capable of keeping the same group together. Partly because of the personal toxic hobbies of some band members, to a large extent because of the fact that Corgan desired to play all the instruments except the drums on the studio recordings. The resulting tensions already rose on the first two albums (Gish and breakthrough record Siamese Dream), but Billy ‘Zero’ Corgan nevertheless succeeded to push all limits one more time on Mellon Collie, decribed by himself as ‘The Wall for Generation X’. Should have been dissoluted immediately afterwards.
7. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Born on the Bayou (Live in Europe, 1973) [singlepic id=64 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Opening track of many CCR concerts, also on this album; or wasn’t it? Whether Live in Europe was an actual live recording or not, this original track still stands as one of their best songs. It was the B-side of CCR’s monster hit single from the same album: ‘Proud Mary’, that became CCR’s breaktrhu. The album Bayou Country still contained some weak spots that were to be replaced by strong album tracks on the following releases, but the hits… they were already there.
8. Guided By Voices – Alright (Alien Lanes, 1995) [singlepic id=172 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Closing track of what is probably GBV’s best album, an instrumental with an occasional shout of the song title. A regular customer of the shuffle thanks to their great amount of tracks and I don’t even own a quarter of everything they released. It all started with a bunch of independant releases, followed by 500 copies of Propeller, Vampire on Titus in 1993 and heir breakthrough album Bee Thousand (1994, not a fan). It was only then when those guys could quit their daytime jobs and turn into full time musicians. Completely in Fugazi-style, Alien Lanes was created way below the available budget. Classic line-up fell apart one year later, but albums are still released at a CCR-rate today.
9. Eels – From Which I Came/A Magic World (Blinking Lights and Other Revelations, 2005) [singlepic id=139 w=80 h=50 float=left]
Nice second track (after the Blinking Lights theme) from by far the best album of this Californian band. Mark Everett really exceeds himself here with a very lush sound, that was also reenacted live thanks to some serious personnel reinforcements.
10. Crosby, Stills & Nash – Guinevere (Crosby, Stills & Nash, 1969) [singlepic id=399 w=80 h=50 float=left]
The genesis of this super group may be well-known meanwhile, debuting here with this great album that moved the main focus in rock music from blues to folk and country during the following years. Stephen Stills was the Billy Corgan of the trio, also playing all of the instruments of the album except the drums (Dallas Taylor). This song follows up Stills’ opening suite and Nash’s poppy ‘Marrakesh Express’, as a David Crosby song that could have also appeared on his last album with The Byrds. Did he write it as if he was Lancelot? Anyway, the women he reffered to as Queen Guinevere would have been (according to Crosby himself) Christine Hinton (his girlfriend), Joni Mitchell and… the unknown third lady.