Well hello there. If you're new to this, you might want to go visit the 'What is this?' tab at the top for more details. Can't be bothered? Fair enough. The short version is that I'm listening to all the albums of the Rolling Stone Top 500 Albums of All Time list, for reasons surpassing understanding at this point. I used to write about it on a site called Demon Pigeon, but that site is dead now (sadness), and some part of me seems utterly unable to let an unfinished challenge go, so here we are. You can find numbers 500-301 by visiting the Demon Pigeon archive, but in the meantime, let's crack on.
300 Black Sabbath – Master of Reality: Well this is a good way to get back into the challenge. My favourite Sabbath album, bookended by two of my favourite Stone Rock songs ever in Sweet Leaf and Into the Void. Smashing start.
299 Weezer – Weezer (Blue Album): One of my all-time favourites, I remember hearing Undone – The Sweater Song on The Evening Session and being blown away by it, and running straight down to Our Price to buy it. Needless to say they’ve pissed that legacy away over the intervening years, but this remains utterly brilliant.
298 Kanye West – The College Dropout: Hello shitness my old friend. I don’t really get Kanye, if I’m honest. He’s a below average rapper with nothing to say and an overly polished sound that’s as dull as dishwater. This was his first album, and proves that the hype was never really justified.
297 The Mothers of Invention – We're Only In It For The Money: You know that thing where unimaginative people define something ‘crazy’ by describing it as ‘..on drugs’? Well this is what ‘…on drugs’ actually sounds like. It’s Frank Zappa and a bunch of other utterly wasted hippies swallowing a dispensary and heading into a studio. In other words it’s an utter mess, with occasional nuggets of excellence swamped by psychedelic bollocks that probably sounds great if you’re on acid, but I’m not.
296 The Smiths – Meat Is Murder: Once again with The Smiths. I hate The Smiths. I hate the fact that their production is designed to be as reedy thin as possible, I hate the fact that everyone seems to think they were amazing but most of all, I hate Morrissey. His stupid voice like someone deflating a cat, his stupid face, and his utterly dreadful teenage poetry. Still, only one more Smiths album to go.
295 Leonard Cohen – Songs Of Love And Hate: This is completely harrowing, morose and brilliant. The best thing to say about this is that it has an album title that is completely justified by the contents within. If you’ve never heard any Cohen, this is a pretty good place to start. If you want to define the word despair, listen to Diamonds in the mine.
294 MC5 – Kick Out the Jams: Ballsy, dirty rock and roll that sounds like it was made by a bunch of ugly greasy skinny men in a concrete hell hole somewhere, which is because that’s exactly what this is. It’s as sophisticated as Waynetta Slob but it rattles along at a fair old pace, enough to forgive it its lack of actual tunes.
293 The Velvet Underground – White Light/White Heat: Verging on being too pretentious for words at times (hey, let’s have an eight minute spoken word story as the second track on the album!) when this clicks into its grimy groove it’s pretty good.
292 Bob Dylan and The Band – The Basement Tapes: This is an album I’ve always meant to get round to, and it doesn’t disappoint. Early Americana mixed with Dylan’s folksy style makes a pretty damn good listen. You see, every time I start wondering why I’m doing this, I get an album that I love, and remember why I’m doing OH GOD I CAN SEE A U2 ALBUM COMING UP SOON.
291 Talking Heads – Talking Heads: 77: I do kind of like Talking Heads, and David Byrne is a fantastic lyricist, but I can’t help but hear all the awful bands that have ripped them off in their wake. I know it’s not their fault, but Vampire Weekend have so thoroughly ripped off the sound that it’s all I can hear.
290 Al Green – Call Me: I have railed in the past against the presence of compilations on this list, but there are times when it might be best. Al Green had a tremendous voice (I know he’s not dead but I’ve seen recent footage and, yeah, he can’t sing any more) but his truly great songs were few and far between, and most of this album is all mood no tune. Perfectly nice background music, but nothing to inspire anything more than ‘doing a sex’. Which I suppose is the point.
289 The Kinks – Something Else By The Kinks: I’m torn on this one, as it’s a pretty fair split between the Kinks’ dreadful penchant for plinky plonky whimsy and their far superior folk and blues rock songs. Half of it makes you realise how ground-breaking they were, the other half makes you want to set fire to the past just to be rid of it.
288 Grateful Dead – Anthem of the Sun: Woah, like, totally, man. This, like, totally has no real songs on it, but that’s like, cool, you know?
287 X – Los Angeles: This is excellent. The first album by American punk-first-wavers X, this is a perfect balance between the snarl and bite of punk and the more nuanced writing that would later come into the post-punk scene. Thoroughly enjoyable.
286 Al Green – I'm Still in Love with You: I don’t really like repeating myself, but given that’s exactly what Al Green is doing here I don’t feel too bad. Please see previous Al Green review a few albums back, I feel exactly the same way about this one.
285 Stevie Wonder – Music Of My Mind: This is fantastic, a blend of funk, soul and gospel that predates Wonder’s inexplicable creative demise in the 80’s, it’s utterly bonkers, wildly inventive and thoroughly enjoyable.
284 The Cars – The Cars: Sometimes I have to wonder about the people who made this list. So you’ve been given the task of compiling a list of the greatest albums of all time and halfway down the list you put a completely forgettable album. Honestly, I listened to this the night before I write this and I remember nothing about it other than it sounded a bit 80’s and the drumming was really rubbish.
283 Barry White – Can't Get Enough: And yet… perhaps anonymously bland is not that bad after all. This is a new low point for this list. This is anti-music; music for people who hate music, but want something vaguely rhythmic to grind against each other to. Barry White isn’t an artist; he’s the punchline to a bad joke.
282 Muddy Waters – Folk Singer: This is much better. A man and a guitar, playing from his fucking heart. After the last album this is akin to walking through a sewer and finding a power shower at the end.
281 Mary J. Blige – My Life: Just when I thought we’d reached the nadir, here we are sinking lower. I think that 90’s R’n’B might just be the worst affront to music ever created. Quite how you can think that taking all the ‘soul’ out of soul music is a good idea beats me, but this is the most vomit inducing blandness imaginable. How can you be a soul singer who is incapable of expressing emotion? How does that even work? Why am I just asking questions? Well, at least it can’t get any worse, right?
280 U2 – All That You Can't Leave Behind: Balls. I wish I could treat this in the same way Bono treats taxes and just ignore it, but a bet is a bet, and a challenge is a challenge. And listening to this really is a challenge. Maybe I can swap challenges and opt for something a little bit more palatable, like smothering myself with wasps, or having all my bones replaced with broken glass.
279 David Bowie – Aladdin Sane: After the bilge water I’ve just had to wade through, this is like a wonderful life raft. I’m not a massive Bowie fan but I can certainly see the appeal. His voice has always grated on me a tad, but this is pretty damn good, if a little uneven. It’s definitely interesting though, and I’ll take that right now, along with a memory enema of the previous two albums.
278 Various Artists – Anthology of American Folk Music: This is simply astounding, a six-album compilation of American folk, blues and country music recordings that were originally issued from 1927 to 1932 and were later reissued by Harry Smith, who was worried they’d pass from existence. It’s a window on a time before music became a commodity, and is utterly mesmerising, despite its running time over four hours. Apparently a huge influence on the folk revival spearheaded by Pete Seeger and later Bob Dylan, as well as the resurfacing of blues in the American consciousness, you can completely see why. It’s like peering under the hood of every form of popular music that came after it and seeing all the workings and parts and how it was all supposed to go together. Utterly spellbinding and thoroughly recommended.
277 Janet Jackson – Rhythm Nation 1814: I mean for fuck’s sake. If anything shows up the incredible stupidity of this list (and by extension the stupidity of this challenge) it’s the juxtaposition of these two albums. What can I say about this? It is shit 90’s pop from a famous singer’s less talented sister, with delusions of being a concept album about being nice to each other or some such nonsense. It also appears to be longer than time itself. I'm fairly sure it took me about 70 years to listen to in its entirety, and had four billion songs on it. I may have blacked out for some of it though, so I can't be entirely sure.
276 Parliament – Mothership Connection: Do you know what, I think I might be broken again. I have no idea what to make of this. It's funky, and that's for damn sure, but either my brain has snapped in two and can no longer regognise music or there's just no songs on this entire album, just endless noodling and people mumbling about being funky occasionally. I need to lie down.
And that's another leg down. One more leg and I'll still only be halfway through, which is a fairly depressing thought. Tune in next time to see if another Janet Jackson album is the only thing between me and a total mind snap.