It was the end of August 2010. Less than 2 months before I got married when Denielle shows me an article in a magazine. I read it and I got skeptical. I was like, “Nah…I’m just not interested.” I did more reading and decided to preview it. The night before we drove out to Michigan for Labor Day Weekend at my dad’s place, I decided to pick it up. We listened to it in the car and I honestly could not contain my enthusiasm. It’s that good! We now live in a world of computerized recordings. John Mellencamp’s approach on his new record label debut, “No Better Than This”, is refreshing. The entire album was recorded with Mellencamp and his band all playing live in one room using a 55 year-old tape recorder and just one vintage microphone. It was captured in three historically important locations: Sun Studio in Memphis, TN (where Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis all first recorded); the First African Baptist Church in Savannah, GA and at the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, TX. The songs on No Better Than This reflect classic American musical traditions including blues, folk, gospel, rockabilly, and country, while addressing themes like the need for hope, the nature of relationships, and narratives that focus on amazing occurrences in everyday life. John Mellencamp says of the album, “It was absolutely the most fun I’ve ever had making a record in my life. It was about making music – organic music made by real musicians – that’s heartfelt and written from the best place it can come from.” The title of the record nails it because I feel that his popularity in the 80’s and 90’s was great BUT now he is “No Better Than This.” Now we are married and we listen to this one at least twice a month in some fashion. Go check it out! This one is a major accomplishment!
I listened to this album more than any other when I was in high school. Even more than Nirvana or Pearl Jam. When I was in cross country we were heading to practice in this guy’s sport car and he was playing this unusual tape. I was memorized by the intense wailing guitars. Then ferocious pounding of the drums and the way the snares and bass were in perfect unison. Then there’s this soothing voice that clashes but actually blends quite well with the rhythm. I asked the guy who was playing. I was like….Smashing Pumpkins? Now that’s an interesting name for a band. I was in my bedroom watching MTV and suddenly a video comes on by the Smashing Pumpkins. The song was entitled “Today” I was hooked. I bought that album “Siamese Dream: and was in pure heaven. I couldn’t get enough of it. Billy Corgan is a great song writer. James Iha is an awesome guitar player complete with strange sound effects. The whole band is great. I will say that while their first album “Gish” was a good one and their 3rd DOUBLE ALBUM. But those two were clearly opposite approaches to their unique and brilliant magic that was perfectly placed on this perfect Sophomore effort. None of their material EVER rose to this level. Don’t believe me. Listen the the track…Geek U.S.A. This is pure adrenaline that just hooked me like a tar pit trap. I refuse to say any more about it. Check it out!
This was a kaleidoscope of hip hop! They were all over the place with this offering. This is a hot record! Tons of sampling that you don’t hear in this day and age was used everywhere on this one. Many hints that their punk roots were emerging as well. Now a lot of records came out in the 80’s. LOTS! But I find this one to be the most creative and controversial too. Nowadays their are so many copyrights and such when it comes to “borrowing and/or sampling other artists music. Beck does it now especially on his Odelay album. BUT….Mike D and the gang really were the masters of this turf. They matured since “Fight For Your Right To Party!” As they themselves put it in a track from Paul’s Boutique……”The Sounds of Science”: “expanding the horizons, expanding our parameters.” CHECK IT OUT….It’s a masterpiece!!!!
The 1970’s were filled with great albums and musicians that rocked the airwaves. Among all of these great offerings by bands such as Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath and The Who; I found myself drawn to Pink Floyd and their brilliant album Wish You Were Here. This one from 1975 is easily Pink Floyd’s best album. When I say best I don’t mean it in terms of popularity or critical acclaim, that one belongs to Dark side of the Moon. But musically and lyrically it is the bands most accomplished piece of work. This album is a great follow-up to Dark Side of the Moon. This is an often overlooked treasure within Pink Floyd’s music catalog. It has survived the test of time well and is finally receiving more attention it deserved when it was first released. It is an essential Pink Floyd album and I mean no disrespect to “The Wall” which is when Roger Waters started to take over, but its the last great album the band produced. Wish You Were Here is very much dedicated to the founder Syd Barrett, who freaked out years before: and there’s funny songs about the evils of the music business (“By the way, which one’s Pink?”), and the touching ones about the band’s mysterious friend. The real star of the show, although, is the amazing production–with David Gilmour getting lots of room for his most creative guitar playing ever. That’s my story and I am sticking to it!
Honestly out of all the early breakthrough rock & roll artists, none is more crucial to the development of rock and roll music than Chuck Berry. He is this style’s greatest songwriter, the main creator of its instrumental voice, one of its greatest guitarists for sure , and one of its best performers. Quite simply, without him there wouldn’t have been the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, and others. If you had to pour out all of Chuck Berry’s early albums on Chess Records (and some of his greatest-hits packages), this would be the one disc to own. The song lineup is perfect, putting together so many classics. This serves as almost a mini-greatest-hits package in and of itself. While this may be simply a collection of singles and what not, it ends up being the most amazing of Chuck Berry’s prime stage of his career.
No CD will truly cover a career of Louis Armstrong in just 25 tracks, but this one is probably as good as it gets. This is honestly the essence of Armstrong. Every track is awesome. If someone is new to collecting Louis Armstrong, I highly suggest picking this one up. This spans most of his life (beginning in the early 1920’s) with all the best cuts. It features some of his finest and creative trumpet playing. There really isn’t a bad song here. Actually, the sound of his horn and his singing makes it impossible for Louis to ever have made a bad track, but this one is a must have for any music enthusiast out there. Armstrong was an American jazz pioneer and an icon. Ken Burns has done a wonderful compilation here. This CD truly deserves to be one of my top 10 favorites of all time! Overall it represents the birth of “cool” from the 1920’s. Louis was a creative genius, and his horn playing was one of the most beautiful and joyous things ever recorded.
The following list of musicians and albums represent what I feel to be the ten greatest albums to be released in ten consecutive decades in a row. It is based on my education and classroom experiences. Through friends, family and my obsessions I found inspiration. Some factors in determining these albums and/or compilations are: I can listen to them numerous times. Some of these artists have stand out performances. Some are based on artist’s best albums, which fall into place with the decade that they originated in. Ultimately this ends up being the top ten albums/artists in my humble opinion. Sometimes the artists pay tribute other times it is just considered their peak performances. In many ways you could say that all decades since the 1920’s are represented but more than that it is also my favorite musicians as well as simply amazing albums and a sample of the best list I could think of that demonstrates the BIG 10 spectacular pieces of music ever……