#245 – Jerry Lee Lewis – All Killer, No Filler: The Anthology

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The sole appearance from rocker Jerry Lee Lewis is his Anthology Boxed Set.  The 1993 release contains 42 songs of which 27 are charted hits.  Just to clarify, this should not be confused with Canadian group Sum 41’s debut, All Killer No Filler.  That one ranks at about the 10,000 mark on this list.

Sara

Ah, another 40+ song box set, only this time from a guy who married his 13yr old cousin and basically lost his career as a result. Lewis nicknamed himself The Killer and, if it’s a reference to his skills on the piano, I’m inclined to agree. We’re used to it now, but it’s important to note that the piano was not typically played in rock music until Jerry Lee Lewis made it so.  ‘Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On’ is a prime example.  Lewis just absolutely slays on the piano on this one in particular. It’s important to note a couple of things about this song. First, Jerry Lee Lewis didn’t write it. It was written by Dave ‘Curlee’ Williams and first recorded by Big Maybelle. In the biographical ‘Great Balls of Fire’ movie, Lewis is seen watching who we can presume is Big Maybelle performing the song, thus inspiring him to cut a version of his own. Sun Records  didn’t love the idea, and they were dead wrong.  Jerry’s version became a rockabilly anthem and was even ranked by Rolling Stone as number 61 on the Greatest Songs of All-Time list.  Elvis and Little Richard made notable versions as well, but Lewis certainly has the best one:

Come along my baby, whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on
Yes, I said come along my baby, baby you can’t go wrong
We ain’t fakin’, while lotta shakin’ goin’ on

Well, I said come along my baby, we got chicken in the barn
Woo-huh, come along my baby, really got the bull by the horn
We ain’t fakin’, whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on

Well, I said shake, baby, shake
I said shake, baby, shake
I said shake it, baby, shake it
And then shake, baby, shake
Come on over, whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on
Oh, let’s go!

Alright

Well, I said come along my baby, we got chicken in the barn
Whose barn? What barn? My barn
Come along my baby, really got the bull by the horn
We ain’t fakin’, whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on

‘In The Mood’ is another key highlight of The Killer’s work. I hit a pretty awesome swing phase in my late teens and this Glenn Miller big band classic is one of the greats. Jerry Lee Lewis is one of many famed artists to put forth a rendition and by far the best non-big band version. Purely instrumental, this was a high point of this experience for me.           

This album caused me to have a mind-blowing Shel Silverstein experience. I was obsessed with his books as a kid, and still have my originals which I have since given to my daughter. I always thought of myself as a huge fan of his until about 5 years ago when I found out that, not only was he dead, but he had died over a decade earlier. I remember just feeling like such an idiot.  Fast forward to now, where I’m feeling like even more of a stunad. Until I saw that Silverstein co-wrote ‘Once More With Feeling’ on this album (with Kris Kristofferson), I had no idea he had a music career.  Now I’m reading about his long and distinguished singer/songwriter resume and feeling like not only am a non-fan, but I’ve basically been peeing on his grave every time I speak his name. This guy’s been out winning Grammy’s and I’m over here oblivious like “poems are good!”

Here’s Maryann Faithfull’s version of ‘The Ballad of Lucy Jordan,’ which I know and love from the ‘Thelma & Louise’ soundtrack:

 

Anyhoo, I’m declaring ‘Once More With Feeling’ as my favorite song on this album because I find Jerry Lee Lewis’ existence kind of disgusting and I like Shel Silverstein a lot more (although I’m clearly not deserving of his love). The song resonates with anyone who has been in a relationship will like this. It’s about those times where you catch yourself going through the motions, especially when life gets hectic, and you realize you need to jump back in full throttle because a relationship deserves your attention. Great song. I’m so sorry Shel! 

We’re just goin’ through the motions
Of the parts we’ve learned to play
Never quite together like before
But somehow darlin’ something good
Got lost along the way
And our song ain’t nothing
Special anymore

Let’s try it one more time
With feeling darlin’, take it from the top
Let me feel those tears a fallin’ babe
I don’t want to miss a single drop
Darlin’ make believe your makin’
Me believe each word you say
Try it once more with feeling
And we’ll call it a day

Ah you’re reachin’ out to touch me
Darlin’ just the way you used to do
An you’re lookin’ everywhere but
In my eyes
Well that’s an oldy but it’s a goody babe
But them words ain’t ringin’ true
And you don’t seem very sure of your life

So try it one more time with feeling
Darlin’ take it from the top
This one is the big one baby so give
It everything you got
Darlin’ make believe your makin’ me
Believe each word you say
Let’s try it once more with feeling
And we’ll call it a day
 

Jerry Lee Lewis. Gross? Yes.  But so talented that I still want to listen to his music? No.

 

Steve

This one was entertaining.  It’s kind of cool to listen to a span of music like this and hear how music changes over the years.  Jerry Lee’s career spans the evolution of blues and country into modern rock and roll.  He actually found greater success in country music later in his career.  The country fanbase was more forgiving of his marriage to his 13 year old cousin.  There’s too many things to say about that, so I’m just gonna leave it alone.

One of my favorite tracks on this one was “No Headstone on my Grave,” written by Charlie “Silver Fox” Rich.  I really don’t have a reason, it is nothing mind blowing lyrically, and pretty average musically.  For whatever reason after listening to forty-two tracks, I remembered this one.  That is more than I can say for most of this album.

Don’t put no headstone on my grave, 
All my life I’ve been a slave, 
Want the whole wide world to know, 
That I’m the man that loved you so 
Mama, mama, don’t you cry, 
I’m gonna meet you in the by and by, in the sweet by and by 
Tell papa I’m comin’ home, comin’ on home, 
God, it can’t be very long 
Don’t put no headstone on my grave, 
All my life I’ve been a slave, 
Want the whole wide world to know, 
That I’m the stud that loved you so 
M,m,m,m,m,m mama don’t you cry, 
Lord, I’m gonna meet you in the by and by, in the sweet by and by 
Tell papa I’m coming home, 
Oh God, it can’t be very long 
Don’t put no headstone on my grave, 
Whoooh! All my life I’ve been a slave, motherhumpin’ slave 
And you know something? I want the world to know, 
That I’m the stud that loved that woman so 
Mama, mama don’t you cry, mama, don’t cry, 
I’m gonna meet you in the by and by, in the sweet by and by 
Tell papa, I’m coming home, Oh Lord, 
You know, it can’t be very long 
(One more time now) 
Don’t put a headstone on my grave 
All my life I’ve been a slave, 
Want the whole wide world to know, 
That I’m the man, 
That loved, 
That loved, 
Don’t put no headstone on my grave, 
All my life I’ve been a slave, whoooh! 
I want the whole wide world to know, 
That I’m the stud that loved you so 
Ma-ma-ma-ma mama, don’t you cry, whooh! Don’t cry! 
I’m-a-gonna meet you in the by and by, in the sweet by and by, 
Tell papa I’m coming home, coming on home… 
…And you know something ladies? 
Oh, God, it can’t be very long

Another one I found memorable was “Thirty-Nine and Holding.”  I celebrated a good friend’s fortieth birthday last night, and I’m getting up there myself.  Again, this isn’t the greatest song ever written, just probably more timing than anything else in this case.

He’s out there somewhere every night
The music’s playin’ loud
He’s doing all-a those fifty’s steps
He’s in a 1980 crowd 

Dim lights hide the milage line
Clairol hides the gray
And he won’t mention anything
To give his old age away

Oh Lord, he’s thirty-nine an he’s holdin’
He’s holdin’ everything that he can
From seventeen to twenty-five
He’ll prove he’s still a man

Hey boy, you’re holding to a candle
And it’s a-burning at both ends
Thirty-nine and holding
A-holdin’ everything that I can

Well, now you can bet he’ll never see
Thirty-nine, again
Son, you oughta given up a long time ago
But you just keep on hangin’ in

He still thinks that he’s the man
That he once used to be
Boy, you’re just thirty-nine
And you’re dreamin’
Acting twenty-three

Oh-oh, he’s thirty-nine, he’s holdin’
Holdin’ everything that he can
From seventeen to twenty-five
He’ll prove he’s still a man

He’s a-holding to a candle
My God, it’s burning at both ends!
He’s thirty-nine and he’s holdin’
Holdin’ everything he can

Jerry Lee Lewis is not known for his song writing.  In fact of the forty-two tracks on this album he only wrote one, and it was pretty blah.  In a few cases, he should have left the originals alone.  The version of “Money (That’s What I Want)” on this album is the worst I’ve heard, and we’re talking about a song that has been covered MANY times.  It’s also funny to hear a song like “High School Confidential” performed by someone who in today’s world wouldn’t be allowed within 500 yards of a school zone.

Jerry Lee belongs on this list, especially as I now believe he may be the originator of referring to yourself in the third person.  Jerry Lee likes to sing about “Jerry Lee” quite often.

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#246 – The Mothers of Invention – Freak Out!

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The second and final listed album from The Mothers of Invention is their debut.  The 1966 release was considered by many to be the first concept album in rock and roll.  The album’s theme is based on front-man Frank Zappa’s impressions of American Pop Culture.

 

Sara

Son of a bitch, not this again. For the past few months, I’ve been watching Criminal Minds on Netflix at night to fall asleep.  It didn’t take me long to realize this was a HORRIBLE idea, but I just keep going. Last night I had a nightmare that I had turned to cannibalism. For some reason I just feel like I need to power through it, so I go on even though I know it’s VERY negatively affecting my life.  I won’t make that mistake with these idiots. I listened through because that’s the challenge Steve and I are doing, but I will NEVER EVER EVER be back.  Let me find out they’re on here again…

This made me look forward to tonight’s Criminal Minds nightmares.

 

Steve

This had its extremely bizarre moments, which I expected.  Many of them were a bit too out there for me, but there are some really good tracks on this album.

My favorite song was “Go Cry on Somebody Else’s Shoulder.”  The song is about someone who broke the singer’s heart and has come crawling back.  Unfortunately for them, there is no longer a place for them to crawl back to.

A year ago today
Was when you went away 
But now you come back knockin’ on my door 
And you say you’re back to stay, 
But I say… 
Go cry 
On somebody else’s shoulder 
I’m somewhat wiser now 
And one whole year older 
I sure don’t need you now 
And I don’t love you 
Anymore 

You cheated me baby, 
And told some dirty lies about me 
Fooled around with all those other guys 
That’s why I had to set you free 
I sure don’t need you now 
And I don’t love you 
Anymore 

A year ago today 
You went away 
And now you come back crying 
Crying, crying: please, let me in 
But I don’t need you 
No I don’t love you anymore 
So go lean on…go cry on 
Somebody else’s door 

Go cry 
On somebody else’s shoulder 
I’m somewhat wiser now 
And one whole year older 
I sure don’t need you now 
And I don’t love you 
Anymore (Oh, my darling!) 

[Spoken:]
Go ahead and cry 
Go ahead and let the tears fall outa your eye 
Let ’em fall on your dress 
Who cares if it makes a mess? 
I gave you my high school ring 
At the root beer stand 
We had a teen-age love baby 
I thought it was sharp 
It was really so grand…but 

Another song that grabbed me was “Trouble Every Day.”  Zappa wrote the song after watching the Watts Riots news coverage from the apartment of a meth chemist who he called “Wild Bill the Mannequin-Fucker.”

The Watts Riots took place over five days in Los Angeles.  The clash started after a traffic stop for reckless driving.  A fight erupted between the police officers and the family of the driver that resulted in 34 deaths and over $40 million dollars in property damage.

Well I’m about to get sick
From watchin’ my TV
Been checkin’ out the news
Until my eyeballs fail to see
I mean to say that every day
Is just another rotten mess
And when it’s gonna change, my friend
Is anybody’s guess

So I’m watchin’ and I’m waitin’
Hopin’ for the best
Even think I’ll go to prayin’
Every time I hear ’em sayin’
That there’s no way to delay
That trouble comin’ every day
No way to delay
That trouble comin’ every day

Wednesday I watched the riot . . .
Seen the cops out on the street
Watched ’em throwin’ rocks and stuff
And chokin’ in the heat
Listened to reports
About the whisky passin’ ’round
Seen the smoke and fire
And the market burnin’ down
Watched while everybody
On his street would take a turn
To stomp and smash and bash and crash
And slash and bust and burn

And I’m watchin’ and I’m waitin’
Hopin’ for the best
Even think I’ll go to prayin’
Every time I hear ’em sayin’
That there’s no way to delay
That trouble comin’ every day
No way to delay
That trouble comin’ every day

Well, you can cool it,
You can heat it . . .
‘Cause, baby, I don’t need it . . .
Take your TV tube and eat it
‘N all that phony stuff on sports
‘N all the unconfirmed reports
You know I watched that rotten box
Until my head begin to hurt
From checkin’ out the way
The newsman say they get the dirt
Before the guys on channel so-and-so

And further they assert
That any show they’ll interrupt
To bring you news if it comes up
They say that if the place blows up
They will be the first to tell,
Because the boys they got downtown
Are workin’ hard and doin’ swell,
And if anybody gets the news
Before it hits the street,
They say that no one blabs it faster
Their coverage can’t be beat

And if another woman driver
Gets machine-gunned from her seat
They’ll send some joker with a brownie
And you’ll see it all complete

Frank Zappa was definitely a weird dude.  I don’t always get what he was going for with his music, but I can certainly appreciate the mad genius involved.

#247 – Grateful Dead Live/Dead

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The Grateful Dead’s fourth and final listed album is their first official live album.  The 1969 release was recorded at several concerts over that year.  The Dead have a long and rich history of live music, and this is the album that started it all.

Sara

I think I admitted in a past post that I’m a bit too much of a sellout to be a die-hard Dead fan, but I do like them quite a bit.  My thing is, and maybe this is because I’m not high as a kite right now, I don’t think many songs should be 23 min long.  I’m almost done listening to any given song at the 8 minute mark. The long jam stuff doesn’t do much for me, and that’s how this one starts out; with a 23 min version of ‘Dark Star.’ Interestingly, the recorded version of ‘Dark Star’ clocks in at just 2:44, but the song became a wildly popular live song and one the band took to jamming along to. Too psychedelic for my blood.
The highlight of this album for me was unquestionably a Bobby Bland cover tune, ‘Turn On Your Love Light.’  A song whose title sounds like something we’d expect from Jesse and the Rippers, this one is surprisingly awesome and the Dead’s version is upbeat, fun and rocking. Honestly, it was the only one on the album that really caught my attention.
 
Got a woman, broke my heart
Took it darlin’, tore it apart
You left me sitting by the fire cryin’
You said your love for me was dyin’
And I’m beggin’ you baby
Baby please
I’m beggin’ you baby
I’m down on my knees
Turn on your light
Let IT shine on me
Turn on your love light
Let it shine on me
Let it shine, shine, shine
Let it shine
Now I want to know
I gotta know baby
Feel alright
Feel alright
And I feel alright
Feel a little lonely in the middle of the night
I need you darlin’ everything alright
Turn on your light
Let it shine on me
Turn on your love light
Let it shine on me
 
I’d listen to this again because the musical talent of the Grateful Dead is just incredibly easy to listen to, but it’ll never be my favorite stuff, and that’s on me.  I don’t know enough about any number of instruments to truly appreciate the talent involved in jamming—I’m just a simpleton who listens to it from time to time.  I like lyrics, sick riffs, explosive drums, etc and jam bands don’t usually scratch that itch.

Steve

Unless I am at a live concert, I tend to agree with Sara, I dont want a twenty minute version of ANY song.  However once we got through that, the rest of the album was really enjoyable.  Eh, I suppose even the twenty-three minute eighteen second “Dark Star” was enjoyable in a way.

I was surprised to find out that “St. Stephen” was not in fact a prophesy of my life in musical form.  Instead the song is about the actual St. Stephen, a martyr who was stoned to death in The New Testament of The Bible.  Don’t worry, I had to look that up.  This was one of my favorite tracks on the album, although at least in part because it meant “Dark Star” was over.

Saint Stephen with a rose, in and out of the garden he goes,
Country garden in the wind and the rain,
Wherever he goes the people all complain.

Stephen prospered in his time, well he may and he may decline.
Did it matter, does it now? Stephen would answer if he only knew how.
Wishing well with a golden bell, bucket hanging clear to hell,
Hell halfway twixt now and then,
Stephen fill it up and lower down and lower down again.

Lady finger, dipped in moonlight, writing “What for?” across the morning sky.
Sunlight splatters, dawn with answer, darkness shrugs and bids the day goodbye.

Speeding arrow, sharp and narrow,
What a lot of fleeting matters you have spurned.
Several seasons with their treasons,
Wrap the babe in scarlet colors, call it your own.
Did he doubt or did he try? Answers aplenty in the bye and bye,
Talk about your plenty, talk about your ills,
One man gathers what another man spills.

Saint Stephen will remain, all he’s lost he shall regain,
Seashore washed by the suds and foam,
Been here so long, he’s got to calling it home.

Fortune comes a crawlin’, calliope woman, spinnin’ that curious sense of your own.
Can you answer? Yes I can. But what would be the answer to the answer man?

 

My hands down favorite track was “Death Don’t Have No Mercy.”  This song was originally written by the Reverend Gary Davis, a blues legend who has influenced many of the artists on this list.  While I have not heard the original, and have nothing to compare it to, this version is amazing.  This one lasts ten minutes, but I loved every second of it.

Y’ Know Death Don’t Have No Mercy In This Land
Death Don’t Have No Mercy In This Land, In This Land
Come To Your House, You Know He Don’t Take Long
Look In Bed This Morning, Children Find Your Mother Gone.

I Said Death Don’t Have No Mercy In This Land.
Death Will Leave You Standing And Crying In This Land,
Death Will Leave You Standing And Crying In This Land, In This Land, Yeah!

Whoa! Come To Your House, Y’ Know He Don’t Stay Long,
Y’ Look In Bed This Morning,
Children You Find That Your Brothers And Sisters Are Gone.
I Said Death Don’t Have No Mercy In This Land.

Death Will Go In Any Family In This Land.
Death Will Go In Any Family In This Land.
Come To Your House, you know he don’t take long.
Look in the bed on the morning, Children Find That Your Family’s Gone.

I Said Death Don’t Have No Mercy In This Land.
Death Will Leave You Standing And Crying In This Land,
In This Land. Whoa! Come To Your House,
Y’ Know It Don’t Stay Long, Y’ Look In Bed This Morning,
Children Find That Your Brothers And Sisters Are Gone.

I Said Death Don’t, Death Don’t Have No Mercy In This Land.

The Grateful Dead, like Phish and other following jam band acts are best enjoyed live, and probably even better enjoyed under the influence of some heavy drugs.  This was still a good listen, and I am at least a little bit sad we are done with The Dead.

 

#248 – Ornette Coleman – The Shape of Jazz to Come

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The sole list appearance from “free” jazz musician Ornette Coleman is his third album.  The 1959 album is one of the rare ones on this list that did not chart at all.  Coleman wanted to call the album “Focus on Sanity, which I personally think is a better title.

Sara

With a name like Ornette you’re destined for greatness. I laid down on the couch and listened to this one straight through. It’s hard for me to break up the songs when listening to jazz. I prefer to just go all the way through it.  This was perfect relaxation music. It’s not all slow, or even mostly slow, but it’s smooth and easy to listen along to.
The first song on the album, ‘Lonely Woman,’ is the best one.  Coleman was inspired to write it by a photo he saw in a gallery during his days as a stock boy in LA in the 1950s. Here’s Coleman’s telling of the experience:
 
“In the background there was everything you could imagine that was wealthy – all in her background – but she was so sad. And I said, ‘Oh my goodness. I understand this feeling. I have not experienced this wealth, but I understand the feeling.’ I went home and wrote ‘Lonely Woman’… I related the condition to myself, wrote this song, and ever since it has grown and grown and grown”
 
After reading about the song I liked it even more.  One thing I know for sure is that material things don’t make people happy in a meaningful way.  We all know at least one person who is flush with cash but perpetually unsatisfied.  It’s the ability to connect, at least with one person (I think ) that makes people truly happy.  You can even be surrounded by people but be lonely if you’re not letting them in.  I feel bad for the woman in the song, and the few people who come to mind when I think of Coleman’s observation. Anyhoo, cool song and cool story.
 
There were only 6 songs on this one, so  I feel like covering one is enough. I would just add that this was pretty great to listen to, even though jazz isn’t always really my thing. Great stuff from any genre is always awesome to come across.  I’m not chomping at the bit for more, but I’d certainly revisit this album if the opportunity presented itself.

Steve

I have no background in music, so for me to break down an album like this in any meaningful way is next to impossible.  I read that the quartet was unusual by not including a chordal instrument, and have no idea what that means.  Coleman also played a plastic Grafton Saxophone, also meaningless to me.

In spite of my musical shortcomings, this was an excellent listen.  I actually let it play through a few times after a really long day at work, and it was perfect to relax to.  This is the shape of jazz that I want in my life.

#249 – R.E.M. – Automatic for the People

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The second of three albums from Michael Stipe and R.E.M. is their eighth studio album.  The 1992 release reached #2 on the US Billboard charts behind the strength of six singles.  The albums title was actually the motto for Weaver D’s Delicious Fine Foods, a restaurant in Athens, Georgia.

Sara

I can’t think of a better way to ring in the second half of the project.  Automatic was a huge part of my 90s experience and I listened to this beauty all through high school and into college. In my house we watch a lot of Master Chef mostly because I love watching Gordon Ramsay scream at people, but also to learn stuff about cooking.  In the beginning of the show, contestants make a signature dish and are often task with making something that is ‘you on a plate.’  90s rock is me on a plate, and REM is in the sauce. REM wouldn’t be the first band or even the tenth that I’d list as my favorite if you asked me, but it’s one of those things where they’re so wired into my DNA that I don’t even think of them.  REM, Zeppelin, Indigo Girls and many others are just givens that I frequently neglect to consciously think of.  I remember learning that REM had broken up in 2011 and my first thought was “they’ve been together this whole time?”
 
This is one of the best starts to an album that exists in the 90s catalogue. Driveà Try Not to Breathe –à The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite-à Everybody Hurts.  I mean come on!
 
‘The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite’ has long been one of my favorite REM songs. Inspired by ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight,’ this song was one of four from the album deemed worthy of the band’s ‘Best of’ album spanning their work from 1988 to 2003. The lyrics are a bit of a mystery, even to band members who have expressed that they are best interpreted by the listener, but what I can tell you is that a sidewinder is a type of rattlesnake as well as a style of telephone.  The lyrics say ‘the sidewinder sleeps in a coil’ but also make many references to making and avoiding phone calls, so I guess maybe it’s about a little of both. I think of trying to get in touch with one of those friends we all have who sucks at returning texts and calls, gets back to you months later and is just like ‘oh sorry, I’ve been soooo busy but we HAVE to chat soon!’ And you’re close enough to each other that you can make fun of him/her for sucking. ‘Oh yeah? Do we though? ‘
                       
This here is the place I will be staying
There isn’t a number
You can call the pay phone
Let it ring a long, long, long, long time
If I don’t pick up, hang up, call back, let it ring some more
If I don’t pick up, pick up
The sidewinder sleeps, sleeps, sleeps in a coil
Call me when you try to wake her up
Call me when you try to wake her
Call me when you try to wake her up
Call me when you try to wake her
Call me when you try to wake her up
Call me when you try to wake her
There are scratches all around the coin slot
Like a heartbeat, baby trying to wake up,
But this machine can only swallow money
You can’t lay a patch by computer design
It’s just a lot of stupid, stupid signs
Tell her,
Tell her she can kiss my ass,
Then laugh and say that you were only kidding
That way she’ll know that it’s
Really, really, really, really me
 
A sidewinder has weaker, less dangerous venom than most rattlesnakes, but is still all scary as all get-out. Take a look at this bad boy:
 
             Crotalus_cerastes_mesquite_springs_CA-2
 
I love almost every song on this album so it’s hard to pick another favorite, but I think the most understated song on the album is ‘Sweetness Follows.’ This song came out with a powerhouse of a slow song with ‘Everybody Hurts,’ which was accompanied by a legendary music video, and that sort of checked the ballad box for most people.  I’m not saying ‘Sweetness Follows’ is a better song, but it’s very beautiful and I’ve always thought it didn’t get the credit it deserved. It’s just sad and awesome:
 
Readying to bury your father and your mother
What did you think when you lost another?
I used to wonder why did you bother
Distanced from one, blind to the other?
Listen here, my sister and my brother
What would you care if you lost the other?
I always wonder why did we bother
Distanced from one, deaf to the other
Oh, oh, but sweetness follows
It’s these little things, they can pull you under
Live your life filled with joy and wonder
I always knew this altogether thunder
Was lost in our little lives
Oh, oh, but sweetness follows
Oh, oh, but sweetness follows
It’s these little things, they can pull you under
Live your life filled with joy and thunder
Yeah, yeah, we were altogether
Lost in our little lives
‘Automatic For the People’ is an institution. It’s hard to believe that 4 days after I’m writing this will be the 25th birthday of this masterpiece. Timeless, awesome album and definitely one I would have flipped out about if it was shunned like so many other 90s masterpieces.

Steve

It has been a long time since I listened to this album.  It moved much slower than I remember, but was still pretty solid.  R.E.M. will never be my favorite band, but they definitely played an important roll in late 1980’s early 1990’s rock.

One of my favorite songs on this album was the ballad “Nightswimming,” which was the fifth single from the album.  The song features Michael Stipes vocals, and Mike Mills’ piano; who are accompanied by an Oboe and a string section.  The strings were led by none other than John Paul Jones, of Led Zeppelin fame.

The photograph on the dashboard taken years ago,
turned around backwards so the windshield shows.
Every street light reveals a picture in reverse
Still it’s so much clearer

I forgot my shirt at the water’s edge
The moon is low tonight

Nightswimming deserves a quiet night
I’m not sure all these people understand
It’s not like years ago
The fear of getting caught
The recklessness in water
They cannot see me naked
These things they go away
Replaced by every day

Nightswimming, 
remembering that night
September’s coming soon
I’m pining for the moon
And what if there were two
Side by side in orbit around the fairest sun?
The bright tide forever drawn 
Could not describe nightswimming

You, I thought I knew you
You, I cannot judge
You, I thought you knew me
This one laughing quietly
Underneath my breath
Nightswimming

The photograph reflects
Every street light a reminder
Nightswimming
Deserves a quiet night
Deserves a quiet night

One of the more recognized songs on this album is “Man on the Moon.”  The song was well received by a more modern audience when the Jim Carrey movie of the same name was released in 1999.  The song was the second single from the album.

The song is a tribute to Andy Kaufman and includes many moments from his career.  The chorus makes use of the moon landing “conspiracy” to refer to the belief that Kaufman’s death in 1984 was fake.

Mott the Hoople and the game of Life yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Andy Kaufman in the wrestling match yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Monopoly, Twenty one, checkers, and chess yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Mister Fred Blassie in a breakfast mess yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Let’s play Twister, let’s play Risk yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
I’ll see you in heaven if you make the list yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Now, Andy did you hear about this one?
Tell me, are you locked in the punch?
Andy are you goofing on Elvis? Hey, baby
Are we losing touch?

If you believed they put a man on the moon
Man on the moon
If you believe there’s nothing up his sleeve
Then nothing is cool

Moses went walking with the staff of wood yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Newton got beaned by the apple good yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Egypt was troubled by the horrible asp yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Mister Charles Darwin had the gall to ask yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Now, Andy did you hear about this one?
Tell me, are you locked in the punch?
Andy are you goofing on Elvis? Hey, baby
Are you having fun?

If you believed they put a man on the moon
Man on the moon
If you believe there’s nothing up his sleeve
Then nothing is cool

Here’s a little agit for the never-believer yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Here’s a little ghost for the offering yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Here’s a truck stop instead of Saint Peter’s yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Mister Andy Kaufman’s gone wrestling yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Now, Andy did you hear about this one?
Tell me, are you locked in the punch?
Andy are you goofing on Elvis? Hey, baby
Are we losing touch?

If you believed they put a man on the moon
Man on the moon
If you believe there’s nothing up his sleeve
Then nothing is cool

If you believed they put a man on the moon
Man on the moon
If you believe there’s nothing up his sleeve
Then nothing is cool

If you believed they put a man on the moon
Man on the moon
If you believe there’s nothing up his sleeve
Then nothing is cool

If you believed they put a man on the moon
Man on the moon
If you believe there’s nothing up his sleeve
Then nothing is cool

I am curious to see what R.E.M. has in store for their final listed album.

#250 – Jay-Z – Reasonable Doubt

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Our friend Jay-Z’s third and final appearance on this list is his debut album.  The 1996 release featured some big name guest stars such as Memphis Bleek, Mary J. Blige, and fellow lister Notorious B.I.G.  The album debuted at #23 on the Billboard 200, and spawned 4 singles.

Sara

Before we get started, I’d just like to get something off my chest.  I’ve noticed in the past 250 albums that, in addition to blatant exclusion of women and minorities on this list, certain under-represented genres also seem to appear in clusters.  Does Jay-Z really have the 252nd and 250th best albums of all-time, or were his best two albums just plopped here in the middle so a noteworthy hip-hop artist could be checked off the ‘make sure we don’t forget them or we’ll catch some fresh hell’ list by the makers?  I know, conspiracy theorists are annoying, but those of you following along here (only two people) should really look at the list itself and I think you’ll have some ‘reasonable doubt’ as to the legitimacy of some of this.  On the bright side, awesome to listen to what Jay Z refers to as his best album (and I agree) all the way through for the first time.

 

I gained a new favorite on this one, “Brooklyn’s Finest.”  I it hard to believe that I haven’t heard this before, but I can’t recall already knowing it and it’s an awesome song. A collaboration with Notorious BIG, this awesome tune was intended as a friendly battle between the two heavyweights, with Jay Z asserting that he’s on Biggie’s level talent-wise, and Biggie shrugging it off.

 
Brooklyn represent y’all, hit you fold
You crazy, think your little bit of rhymes can play me?
I’m from Marcy, I’m varsity, chump, you’re JV
(Jigga) Jay-Z

[Notorious B.I.G.]
.. and Bigga baby!
My Bed-Stuy flow’s malicious, delicious
Fuck three wishes, made my road to riches
from 62’s, gem stars, my moms dishes
Gram choppin, police van dockin
D’s at my doors knockin

[Jay-Z]
What? Keep rockin
No more, Mister, Nice Guy, I twist your shit 
the fuck back with them pistols, blazin
Hot like cajun
Hotter than even holdin work at the Days Inn
with New York plates outside
Get up outta there, fuck your ride

[Notorious B.I.G.]
Keep your hands high, shit gets steeper
Here comes the Grim Reaper, Frank Wright
Leave the keys to your In-tegra (That’s right)
Chill homie, the bitch in the Shoney’s told me
You’re holdin more drugs than a pharmacy, you ain’t harmin me
So pardon me, pass the safe, before I blaze the place 
and here’s six shots just in case
 

Also LOVE ‘The Twos,’ mainly because the chorus is that of Tribe Called Quest’s timeless monster “Can I Kick It?” OK, well truthfully the chorus is sort of the only part of the song I like besides the beat, as the lyrics contain way too many n-words and gay slurs and references for me to give it a thumbs up. If he put some remotely appropriate rhymes over it, this one would be top 10 Jay Z songs in my book. This was recorded in 1996 and, in terms of social acceptability of gay slurs we were in a different stratosphere, and it shows several times throughout the album.  It’s also relevant to note that, like Nas’ Illmatic, Reasonable Doubt is unquestionably almost entirely comprised of tales of drugs and crime by the young songwriter. So, the language, though disturbing, is pretty on par with the life Jay Z was living at the time.

Awesome album. Love Jay Z. Yeah, he’s all over the map personally, but just to wilder extremes than most of us.  My take is that he’s a guy who’s made a lot of mistakes, knows he’s very lucky to be in the spot he’s in, especially considering said mistakes, and is trying to use his platform to make a positive impact on the world. Am I being to forgiving? Possibly.  But the dude is super talented and I’m a fan. If he EVER hurts Beyonce again I take it all back.

Steve

This is a phenomenal album that I have been listening to for years.  I’m going to have to thank my friend Tommy Mastrogiovanni next time I see him, because he definitely got me onto this album.  Well since you are one of our two readers Heather, let him know for me.

This album starts with “Can’t Knock the Hustle.”  This is amazing to me.  My all time favorite Jay-Z song is the first track on his first album.  Talk about starting off on the right foot.  The song is practically perfect, from Pain in da Ass’s opening monologue to Mary J. Blige singing the chorus.

I’m making short term goals, wonder whether foes
just put away the leathers and put ice on the gold
chilly with enough bail money to free a big Willy
high stakes, I got more at stake than Philly
shopping sprees, coping three, deuce fever I guess its fully loaded,
ah yes,
bouncing in the lex luger, tires smoke like Buddha
50 g’s to the crap shooter,
niggas can’t fade me
chrome socks beaming, through my peripheral I see ya scheming
stop dreamin’, I leave ya body steaming
niggas is feening, what’s the meaning
I’m leaning on any nigga intervening with the sound of my money machine-in
my cuff running over with hundreds
I’m one of the best niggas that done it
six digits and running,
y’all niggas don’t want it
I got the godfather flow, the don Juan Demarco
swear to god, don’t get it fucked up

[Chorus – Mary J. Blige]
taking out this time
to give you a piece of my mind
(cause you can’t knock the hustle)
but though you think you are
baby one day you’ll be a star

last seen out of state where I drop my slang
I’m deep in the south kicking up top game
bouncing on the highway switching 4 lanes
screaming through the sun roof money ain’t a thang
your worst fear confirmed,
me and my fam roll tight like the firm
getting down for life, that’s right, you better learn
why play with fire, burn
we get together like a choir
to acquire what we desire
we do dirt like worms
produce g’s like sperm
’til legs spread like germs
I got extensive hoes, with expensive clothes
and I sip wine, and spit vintage flows
but y’all don’t know……
yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,
cause you can’t knock the hustle

[Mary J. Blige:]
but until that day then
I’m the one whose crazy
cause that’s the way ya making me feel
(cause you can’t knock the hustle)
I’m just trying to get mine,
I don’t have the time
to knock the hustle for real

y’all niggas lunching, punching a clock
my function is lo make much ‘n’ lay back munching
sipping Remy on rocks, my crew
something to watch nothing to stop
un…
…stoppable
scheme on the ice, I gotta hide your crew
I gotta
let you niggas know the time like movado
my motto,
stack rocks like Colorado
bottle off the champagne, crystals by the bottle
it’s a damn shame what you’re not though (who?) me slick like a GATO fuckin’ Jay-Z
pops knew exactly what he did when he made me
tried to get a nut and he got a nut and what
straight banana’s
can a nigga, see me
got the US Open, advantage jigga
serve like sampras, play fake a rappers like a campus Le Tigre,
son you’re too eager
you ain’t having it? good, me either
lets get together and make this whole world believers
at my arraignment, screaming
all these blacks got is sports and entertainment, until we even
thieving, as long as I’m breathing
can’t knock the way a nigga eating
fuck you even

[Mary J. Blige:]
taking out this time
to give you a piece of my mind
but though you think you are
baby one day you’ll be a star
but until that day then
I’m the one whose crazy
cause that’s the way ya making me feel,
I’m just trying to get mine, I don’t have the time
to knock the hustle for real

I’m going to go in order, because track 2 is another long time favorite song of mine, “Politics as Usual.”  The first two tracks on this album are among the best openings on any of the albums on this list.  The song is about not getting sidetracked by success and just living your life.

You know how we do, Roc-a-Fella… forever… You can catch me
skatin through your town puttin it down y’all relatin
No waitin I’ll make your block infrared hot I’m like Satan
Y’all feel a nigga’s struggle, y’all think a nigga love to
hustle behind the wheel, tryin to escape my trouble
kids stop they greetin me, I’m talkin sweet to keys
Cursin the very God, that bought this wreath to be
My life is, based on sacrifices, jewels like ices
and fools that think I slip, you fuck around
you get your guys hit, they built me to be filthy
on some I-do-or-die shit, for real
The price of leather’s got me, deeper than ever and
just think, with this here, I’m tryin to feel made nig-ga

Politics as us-ual… I took my
Frito to Tito in the district, blessed me with some
VS somethins I can live with, stop frontin
And for the dough I raise, gotta get shit appraised
No disrespect to you, make sure you word is true
I’m takin wages down in Vegas just in case Tyson
have a major night off, that’s clean money, the tax write-off
You ain’t seen money in your life, when it
comes to this cheese y’all like Three Blind Mice
A smokin bro, who pump Willie Ike spokes
The furthest you Chiles been is the Pocanos
My portfolio reads: leads to Don Corleone, nigga please
Ten year feleon, heavy on the wrist, our face used
with the diamond blooded Jesus and blind your face
youse for life… sharight, Jigga, I keep it tight nig-ga

Politics as us-ual…
You feel my triumph never, feel my pain I’m lyin
Low in the leather Zion, the best that’s ever came
The game changes like, my mind just ain’t right
We ‘gwan get this dough, I guess it ain’t your night
Suckin me in like a vacumn, I remember
tellin my family I’ll be back soon, that was December
Eighty-five and, Jay-Z rise ten years later
got me wise still can’t break my underworld ties
I wear black a lot, in the Ac’, act a lot
Got matchin VCR’s, a huge Magnavox
to nitch, green like spinach pop wines that’s vintage
It’s a lot of big money in my sentence
Hittin towards a mil’, lip a, written I kill like that
chick faked me one-two cat, yeah, I do dat
Ain’t no stoppin the champagne from poppin
the drawers from droppin, the law from watchin, I hate em

Politics as us-ual

I can’t not mention “Can I Live.”  The beat gets you pumped, and Jay-Z’s flow is so god-damned smooth.  I actually found an essay about why this indisputably the greatest rap song of all time when I was researching this album.  While I don’t know about that, I think it definitely belongs in the discussion.

Yeah, hah, yeah Roc-A-Fella
We invite you to, somethin epic y’all know?
Where we hustle out of a sense of hopelessness
Sort of a desperation
Through that desperation, we ‘come addicted
Sorta like the fiends we accustomed to servin
But we feel we have nothin to lose
So we offer you, well, we offer our lives,
What do you bring to the table?

While I’m watchin every nigga watchin me closely
My shit is butter for the bread they wanna toast me
I keep my head, both of them where they supposed to be
Hoes’ll get you sidetracked then clapped from close feet
I don’t sleep, I’m tired, I feel wired like codeine, these days
A brother gotta admire me from four fiends away
My pain wish it was quick to see, from sellin ‘caine
Til brains was fried to a fricaisse, can’t lie
At the time it never bothered me, at the bar
Gettin my thug on properly, my squad and me
Lack of respect for authority, laughin hard
Happy to be escapin poverty, however brief
I know this game got valleys and peaks, expectation
For dips, for precipitation we stack chips, hardly
The youth I used to be, soon to see a mill’ in
No more, Big Willie my game has grown prefer you call me William
Illin for revenues, Rayful Edmonds like
Channel 7 news, round seven jewels, hand gettin the mic
Forgettin all I ever knew, convenient amnesia
I suggest you call my lawyer, I know the procedure
Lock my body can’t trap my mind, easily
Explain why we adapt to crime
I’d rather die enormous than live dormant that’s how we on it
Live at the main event, I bet a trip to Maui on it
Presidential suites my residential for the weekend
Confidentially speakin in codes since I sense you peekin
The NSX rental, don’t be fooled my game is mental
We both ride our town dog, what you tryin to get into?
Viva, Las Vegas, see ya, later at the crap tables
Meet me by the one that starts a G up
This way no fraud Willie’s present gambling they re-up
And we can have a pleasant time, sippin margaritas
Ge-ge-geyeahhh, can I live?
Can I live?

My mind is infested, with sick thoughts that circle
Like a Lexus, if driven wrong it’s sure to hurt you
Dual level like duplexes, in unity, my crew and me
Commit atrocities like we got immunity
You guessed it, manifest it intangible goods
Platinum Rolexed it, we don’t lease
We buy the whole car, as you should
My confederation, dead a nation, EXPLODE
On detonation, overload the mind of a said patient
When it boils to steam, it comes to it
We all fiends gotta do it, even righteous minds go through this
True this, the streets school us to spend our money foolish
Bond with jewelers and, watch for intruders
I stepped it up another level, meditated like a buddhist
Recruited lieutenants with ludicrous, dreams of
Gettin cream let’s do this, it gets te-di-ous
So I keep one eye open like, C-B-S, ya see me
Stressed right? Can I live?
Can I live?
Can I live?
Can I live?
Ha-hah, Roc-A-Fella y’all

I could go on about every track on this album.  What a great way to start the second half of this list, especially considering how poorly the first half ended.  In my opinion this album should be MUCH higher on this list, Sean Carter kind of got shafted here.

#251 – David Bowie – Low

HALFWAY STAT REPORT

We have not been as dedicated lately as when we started, but we have reached the halfway point!  Hopefully we can try to get a little more on track and bang out the second half of this list.  So far we have listened to 250 albums, made up of 3403 tracks.  This has taken us 208 hours, 37 minutes, and 21 seconds.  That is almost 9 full days of music.  I would like to say that this has all been an amazing musical experience, but there are some really questionable albums included on this list.  On the other hand, I have definitely learned a lot about music, both the good and the bad.

 

Anyways, on to the album!

0251

Low is the third of David Bowie’s five listed albums.  The 1977 release was Bowie’s eleventh studio album.  After a period of drug addiction, Bowie moved to West Berlin and recorded this album with the help of producer Tony Visconti, and our old friend Brian Eno.

Sara

It’s moments like this that I’m glad no one reads our posts.  I keep trying to like David Bowie but it just doesn’t get to that level for me. This one’s a resounding ‘meh.’  (I know, I’m sorry, I suck at liking David Bowie) I liked the other two Bowie albums we’ve heard so far MUCH better. Maybe I need to give it another whirl.  Will do after I listen to the following 250 albums.

 

Steve

This was a really odd album.  I like David Bowie, and I just couldn’t get into it.  I tried to force mysef to like it.  I listened to the damn thing three times, and it just did not click for me.

I’m not gonna waste a lot of time on it, we have seen better Bowie before this, and there is better Bowie to follow.