Thursday, July 24, 2008

adventures in album alphabetization, vol. 1

Two days ago I was hopped up on fountain Cokes (which I never drink), free Yat's (courtesy of dropping my business card off---and winning), and the post-work summer high of entering your air-conditioned house after sweating your way home.

I drew the blinds, shed my work duds, and threw on Al Green's double-disc collection The Absolute Best...coincidentally, the first album alphabetically on my computer. Yes, I've ripped most of the CD's I own onto my PC. Helluva lot easier than buying five or six 100-disc changers, which I wouldn't trust to work correctly for more than 6 months, those things being made out of more plastic than Eartha Kitt.

That's when it hit me---I was going to listen to all of the albums, sequentially, by album title. Who knows how long it will take me, but as I've been simultaneously whittling down and building up my collection, this seemed like a good time. Expect reactions and audio clips to all of it...and let's get started:

The Absolute Best - Al Green
I mean, I can't fault you if you choose Marvin, Otis, or Sam. Hell, throw Bill Withers in there, too. But for my money, things just don't get any more sweltering, more downright swingin', than Al Green. This collection, probably the best, absolutely drips soul like honey; the drums, horns, bass-lines, all executed with exceptional swagger-n-sweat. They are feelin' it, and so will you. Perfect summer or winter jams, as long as you're ready to get loose.

One track: Al Green - I'm a Ram

The Advantage - The Advantage

Dudes from Hella playing technically-strong, lithe-rock versions of original Nintendo soundscapes. No synth here---it's all guitar, bass, & drums. It's kitsch at heart, but surprisingly tuneful and, yes, does occasionally rock and make you almost forget you're just a nerd listening to 8-bit covers.

One track: The Advantage - Ducktales, Moon Level

Aftermath (UK) - the Rolling Stones
Take away "Paint it Black", add a couple extended/alternate cuts, and you get Aftermath UK, which begins to show signs of one of the most excellent album runs in music history, beginning a couple years down the road with Beggars Banquet. Here though, gems abound, like the sitar marking "Mother's Little Helper", the mellow vibes anchoring "Under My Thumb" and the prom-ballad/blues-stomp "Out of Time", and the extended-country-drawl of "Going Home". It was only a matter of time till the Stones mastered their amalgamation of American-rhythm-and-blues and riff-based rock-and-roll.

One track: The Rolling Stones - Out of Time (Extended Cut)

Airs Above Your Station - Kinski
Kinski, a Seattle-area instrumental quartet, effectively create their own brand of loosely-wound biker-drone, alternating between riff-heavy slabs of dense, Sabbath-y, rock, and feedback/fuzz-laden atmospheric stretches. It's the riff that is more effective on Airs Above Your Station, particularly on the moody, stoner-rock stretches of "Steve's Basement" and the reverbed-out "Semaphore". Their inability to remain "free" for long puts a cap on otherwise acceptable drone stretches, and perhaps its their technically heavy/effects-laden riffs -- catchy, no doubt -- that leave you wanting the more structured, sonically-interesting parts of the record, like the kraut-y, Sonic Youth-esque dissonant pounding of "Rhode Island Freakout".

One track: Kinski - Rhode Island Freakout

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