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've had a few weeks off, mainly for my own sanity, but now I'm back on the horse. Yes, I'm self medicating with heroin. Not really. Let's crack on, shall we? No, I'm not smoking crack either.
250 Jay-Z – Reasonable Doubt: Well this is just dreadful. Homophobic, misogynistic and just plain dull, this lacks the production gloss that at least makes Mr Z’s more recent work more listenable. When you look at why hip-hop is in such a mess these days, I’d be pretty tempted to lay most of the blame at the feet of this turgid crapfest.
249 R.E.M. – Automatic for the People: Sure, in hindsight this is about as cool as having a signed photo of Bono on your mantelpiece or voting Conservative in a European Election, but there’s a part of me that dimly recalls being a miserable middle class white kid in the early 90’s who utterly adored this album. A lot of it hasn't aged well and ‘Everybody Hurts’ has been played into extinction, but there’s still enough to enjoy about this. Kind of.
248 Ornette Coleman – The Shape of Jazz to Come: This is glorious; laid back Jazz; spiky and all over the place without ever losing that groove. I’d never heard of it before because I’m a philistine, but I’ll be coming back to this, definitely. Added bonus points for now knowing where that Refused album title comes from.
247 Grateful Dead – Live/Dead: Opening with a twenty minute plus extended jam, this is a laid back, drug addled space rock extravaganza. In fact they might as well have dispensed with the individual tracks, it’s basically all just one massive jam session where the occasional song surfaces to the fore before the meandering noodling returns. Needless to say I fucking loved it.
246 The Mothers of Invention – Freak Out! Every bit as drugged out as The Dead but much more psychotic pop than meandering space jams, this is pretty hit and miss. Some of the tunes are pretty good, but there’s nothing massively memorable here, and large swathes of it are just a bit pants, especially the final three songs, which are just utterly unlistenable drugs bilge.
245 Jerry Lee Lewis – All Killer, No Filler: The Anthology: As far as I’m concerned, being a paedophile who openly marries their thirteen year old cousin erodes any artistic accomplishments you may have achieved. Just as I can never watch Chinatown again, I've listened to it because it’s on the list (no skipping, remember) but that’s it. Of course, it being another one of these ridiculous anthologies, this took ages, and it’s much more country than the rock'n'roll for which he is more commonly known. Urgh. I need a bath now.
244 Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP: Eminem is a funny one really; at times he’s brilliantly talented, but that’s constantly counterpointed by the fact that he’s such a colossal bell-end. You can marvel at his vocal dexterity, his knack with a catchy tune, his ability to meld the darkness of his lyrics with an undoubted pop sensibility, but then despair at the utter stupidity of 70% of what he’s saying. He’s undoubtedly authentic, which is impressive given his global megastar status; it’s just a shame that he’s so authentically a fucking idiot.
243 Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath: WHAT IS THIS THAT STANDS BEFORE ME? I really can’t think of anything to say about this album that isn’t just me going ‘heh heh heh metal’ like the Beavis that I undoubtedly am. Sure, it’s baggy in places, but it’s the first fucking Black Sabbath album. Who doesn’t like the first Black Sabbath album?
242 Run-D.M.C. – Run-D.M.C.: The idea of Run D.M.C. is always better than the reality. You can’t help but love them, with their big shoes and fun time raps, but the reality is this now sounds so dated that you can actually hear the cobwebs between the sparse 80’s production, while the raps are so slow and measured that they sound like they’re coming from the mouths of white English geography teachers rather than godfathers of the genre. Don’t go back, there’s nothing but pain here.
241 The Replacements – Let It Be: A spiky punky slice of early 80’s proto-alternative post-punk. It’s more interesting when it drops the tempo a bit and gives the songs room to breathe; the more raucous songs are a bit ‘anonymous punk’ but you can see why this was such a huge influence on the burgeoning alternative scene. Highly enjoyable.
240 Steely Dan – Can't Buy A Thrill: There’s nothing quite like Adult-Orientated-Rock to convince yourself that you’re not yet an adult. This is stomach churningly bland, the musical version of unsweeted (or unsalted if you're a weirdo) porridge, or a lukewarm bowl of tapioca.
239 Madonna – Like a Prayer: If I've come across throughout the 261 album reviews so far as a bit of a curmudgeon, pissing on anything that fails to meet my own tremendously battered alt-ometer then, well, that’s because I am. But that’s not to say I can’t get down with a good slice of pop genius. This is glorious, brilliantly crafted pop, and I can indeed get down with it.
238 Howlin' Wolf – Howlin' Wolf: I do love me some good old fashioned blues, and it’s a blessed relief to get an album from a pre-album era artist that isn't a seventy four disc retrospective, but the truth is that while this is pleasant enough, there’s not a massive amount here to get wildly excited about.
237 The Who – My Generation: Given how boring I found the last Who album on this list I wasn't expecting much, but this is much better. Finally I see what everyone is going on about with The Who. Raucous and urgent, but with excellent songs.
236 Jackie Wilson – Mr. Excitement!: The most ironically named album of all time? This laid back swing/lounge album is perfectly pleasant, but excitement isn't exactly the term I’d use.
235 Patsy Cline – The Ultimate Collection: Another one to mark in the ‘perfectly pleasant’ pile, there’s nothing much to get annoyed about or excited about. Good songs, again my only real complaint is that it’s about seventeen weeks long. I swear if this list had a limit of seventy minutes to be called an 'album' then I'd have finished this challenge months ago.
234 Simon & Garfunkel – Bookends: 'America' is my favourite S&G song, but I've never actually listened to the album it’s spawned from. This makes me an idiot of some kind, because this is great. The songs are glorious; all lush folk, wonderful harmonies and edgy cool. At times it strays into ridiculous pretentiousness, but, hey, it’s still a damn fine album.
233 The Byrds – Mr. Tambourine Man: This was perfectly listenable 60’s pop with a slight psychedelic tinge, but as I come to write my review I find I've already forgotten it, so it can’t have been that good. I only listened to it half an hour ago.
232 The Kinks – The Kink Kronikles: This is a bit of an odds and sods collection from The Kinks; half greatest hits, half rarities and odds and sods. It’s fairly consistently brilliant, however, although it’s twice as long as it needs to be. I’m starting to reach peak 60’s now though. Can we have something from another decade please Rolling Stone?
231 Queen – A Night At The Opera: I was really looking forward to this, I was a die-hard Queen fan as a kid, owning all the albums on cassette, and was a bit miffed that they only merited one album on this list (madness given the plethora of U2 albums). But having not heard this for a couple of decades at least, it’s a little disappointing. I used to really love this but it’s just a bit sad and dated now. Not like A Kind of Magic. Now that’s an album.
230 Bonnie Raitt – Nick Of Time: Oh good, Country music. Not only is this bad country, it's bad country with a cheesy 80's pop production. It’s like all of my dreams come true. Nightmares. I meant nightmares. This is awful, like place-your-fingers-in-a-blender-to-distract-yourself awful.
229 Aerosmith – Toys In The Attic: Another classic of my childhood, this also doesn't stand up quite as well as I remember, despite the presence of Sweet Emotion, which is a belter of a song. Still, it's a decent enough slab of mainstream American seventies rock, but hardly earth shattering.
228 Eric B. & Rakim – Paid In Full: Classic 80’s hip hop with all the attendant cliches, right down to a front cover covered in dollar bills and typography that makes clip art look sophisticated. The music itself is as basic as its artwork, but there’s no doubting the talent of Eric B and Rakim themselves, whose raps make this a pleasant enough diversion, even if the sonic backdrop is beyond irritating at times.
227 Pixies – Doolittle: Thankfully this breaks the streak of disappointment, living up to my memory of it being bloody brilliant. A quarter of a century old this year, this has retained all of its vibrancy, urgency and uniqueness, despite legions of increasingly mediocre bands (and their reunited selves) doing their very best to piss on the brush-fire of their legacy. Not bad going.
226 Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska: This is utterly depressing, a collection of lo-fi folk songs about characters for whom no hope exists, no escape is possible and no joy will seemingly ever be experienced again. The title track is about someone being sentenced to death by electric chair for Pete’s sake. It’s dark, it’s quiet, it’s fucking brilliant.
So there you have it. Another twenty five albums down, another worryingly low hit-rate, another twenty-plus hours of my life I'll never get back. Join me next time, when I'll be trying to get through yet more albums by U2 and The Smiths without throwing my generic mp3 playing device through a portal to hell just to be on the safe side.