Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Desert Island Here I Come?

Joe Carter over at First Thoughts makes note of the Vatican's picks for the Top 10 Pop/Rock albums of all-time: Geezer Rock-Listening Baby Boomers Take Over Vatican Newspaper

Did Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski get a job at L’ Osservatore Romano? That seems to be the only explanation for the Holy See’s official newspaper including these works on their list of top ten rock and pop albums of all time:

The Beatles’ “Revolver”
Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of The Moon”
Oasis’ “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?”
Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”
U2’s “Achtung Baby”
Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours”
Donald Fagen’s “The Nightfly”
Carlos Santana’s “Supernatural”
Paul Simon’s “Graceland”
David Crosby’s “If I Could Only Remember My Name.”

According to the WSJ, the rock critics at L’ Osservatore claim the albums are perfect listening material for anyone who finds himself marooned on a desert island. This could not be more wrong. Unless you’re stranded on a island with a bunch of hippies, there is no way you want to listen to Pink Floyd, Donald Fagen, and David Crosby. (As a matter of fact, if you’re stranded on an island with hippies those are also the last albums you’d ever want to listen to.)

Unlike Joe, I believe they at least got "Revolver" right, but the rest of the picks have to go.

Here is my comment on what are the other nine albums should be:

1. The Kinks – Singles Collection: OK, maybe I’m cheating here, but this compilation of early Kinks’ singles thru to “Apeman” can’t be beat. “Sunny Afternoon” echoes trad jazz but no one at the time seemed to notice. Brilliant.

2. Simon & Garfunkel – Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme: Simply buries Simon’s “Graceland.” Garfunkel’s voice on “For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her” is one of the prettiest things ever found on a pop record.

3. Matthew Sweet – Girlfriend: Were there any justice in the record business (or fewer record executives in the record business) this guitar driven power pop jam fest would have spawned the great music movement of the 1990’s. Sadly, that distinction went to Nirvana. Granted, a subtext here is Sweet’s mistrust of organized religion (e.g. “Divine Intervention” “Evangeline” and “Holy War”) but there isn’t as much rancor as you might expect.

4. The Alan Parsons Project – The Turn of a Friendly Card: Too prog for a lot of pop lovers, too poppy for a lot of prog purists, this album (best known for the two singles “Time” and “Games People Play”) is seriously underrated. The second side title track suite is gorgeous symphonic rock. That it examines the human cost of gambling and addiction makes it unusual, to say the least.

5. Jellyfish – Spilt Milk: Go ahead and roll your eyes if you must…I know this is a record that lots of folks claim as a “influence” and, normally, that would be enough to frighten me away, but this “throw everything including the kitchen sink production” is a sonic work of art. Yes, I realize there is a song about a penis here, but I just said it was “art” not “high art”. The track “New Mistake” is sublime.

6. Graham Parker – Heat Treatment: “Squeezing out Sparks” usually gets mentioned, and it’s raw power is impressive, but it is Parker’s blast of rocking R&B that I need to have with me. “Fool’s Gold” is the sort of anthem the world needs more of at all times.

7. Crowded House – Woodface: The finest thing ever to come from the Kiwi brothers Finn. The more patriotic among us may take exception to the song “Chocolate Cake” but maybe we do live up to it sometimes. As for the rest of the album, it is as smooth a piece of pop as you could want to hear. “Weather With You” sparkles from beginning to end.

8. They Might Be Giants – Apollo 18: Even among those who love TMBG, choosing between the records is a bit of a fool’s errand. They are so varied in their makeups that reactions will be even more subjective than normal. Still, this is a cornucopia of tunes, hummable, slightly smart, slightly stupid, and yet substantive. I’ve no idea how they manage it. “Mammal” and “See the Constellation” always make me smile.

9. Al Stewart – Between the Wars: For my money, easily the finest thing Mr. Stewart has ever done. Literate pop-folk with a good ear for the jazz rhythms of the age, and if it is a little sonically jarring it mimics the recordings of the 20’s while updating them. A list of the stand out tracks would simply be a listing of every track on the album, but I’ll mention “Last Train to Munich” and “Laughing into 1939″. Wow.

Now, as long as I get washed up on shore with a well stocked bar, I'm ready for that desert island.


X-Ray said...

Wow Mr. I. Midwesterner- No Webb?!?!

You got some of it right. Girlfriend YES and Spilt Milk HELL YES! I'll even give you Woodface, Apollo 18 and Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme because they are the finest product from those particular artists, although I wouldn't necessarily put them on my list of desert island discs (If I could choose 20, Apollo 18 and Woodface would make the cut.

In case you're wondering, other than the 2 mentioned above, I would add (in no particular order):
New Deal - John Wesley Harding,
Trace - Son Volt,
Hemispheres - Rush,
The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway - Genesis,
Portrait of a Legend 1951-1964 - Same Cooke (since you added a singles collection, I think its only fair that I can have a greatest hits album,
Studebakersfield - Charlie Chesterman,
Reverb Deluxe - The Derailers,
and if I could have only 1 Beatles Album, I pick the the White Album, (twice the Beatles, twice the fun).

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

Well, I was working under some constraints. The list was designed to focus upon artists most people would have heard of, especially the older crowd reading First Thoughts. If it was my absolute top ten the Simon & Garfunkle, Crowded House and Graham Parker wouldn't have been there (though in the Top 25 would be likely.)

I would have added:

Splitsville: Complete Pet Soul
Adam Schmitt: World So Bright
Cotton Mather: Kon Tiki

And, you know, I find it hard to pick a favorite Webb Wilder album. I can make cases for "It Came From Nashville," "Doo Dad," and "Acres of Suede." It's tough!