6 - Weezer - The Red Album - Ok, so before you think this list has no credibility, give this thing a listen. These pop songs with distorted guitars are so finely crafted, dripping with oxymorons, sarcasm and just life-affirming truth. It begins with a 2 chord stomp, "Troublemaker", that toyfully plays with rockgod/B-boy swagger. "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived" is a Bohemian Rhapsody inspired touch of genius. "Heart Songs" hits home deep to me as an ode to adolescent musical inspiration and I did a lot of the nutty things in "Everybody Get Dangerous" as a kid. In my mind, Rivers Cuomo is one of my generations most under-appreciated songwriters.
5 - Jay-Z - The Blueprint - Since I've never been one to totally dismiss someone for being popular, any true fan of hip-hop can't deny that Jay-Z deserves a spot on the "Mt. Rushmore" of the art form. While he has crafted many bumpin' singles over the years, The Blueprint is his most complete work with lyrical flows that match the tremendous musical production. From the brilliant use of a Doors sample in "The Takeover" to the swingin' Timbaland-produced "Hola Hovito" to the Bobby Blues Bland-groove of "Heart of the City (Ain't No Love)" this is Jigga at not only his most lethal, but also perhaps his most poignant. Lot's of dudes can rap, but no one has the verbal skills of Jay-Z.
4 - Fishbone - Truth & Soul - This album's production may sound dated to some now, but this is the most important record that I've ever heard. It was released at a time when I wanted desparately to be in a touring band and when I saw a black kid with a bald head, a few dreadlocks aloft play a live set at City Gardens for $5 with the energy and destructive capabilities of a SCUD missle, my mind was forever changed. Once I got home and bought the CD (yes, kids, that's what we did back then) I was destroyed. Seering ska-soaked, punk-n-soul with attitude and real heart, made me listen so much I wore the CD out. The greatest band I've ever seen live, period, at their creative apex.
3 - Public Enemy - It Take A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back - From Chuck D's barking baritone delivery to the nonsense of Flavor Flav's antics, this is Panther Power punk. The Bomb Squad (whatever happened to these guys?) created a ground-breaking style of beats by making the track so dense that it almost sounded like cacophony incarnate but every sample has its place and is perfectly situated. Chuck's voice is so crucial in songs like "Rebel Without a Pause" "Black Steel In the Hour of Chaos" and "Night of the Living Baseheads", it's like a call to arms. I'm ready, Chuck!
2 - Sam Cooke - Live at Harlem Square (1964) - No one, and I do mean no one, has ever sang a song like Sam does. When he first came on the scene, he was a crooner in a tight suit and so clean cut. But the REAL Sam Cooke is on full display in this live performance in front of an all-Black crowd in Miami. Sam takes 'em to church with soulful, raspy renditions of his poppy singles. Listening to this you can feel the sweat in the room, you can hear the urgency in his voice and the passion of the real man. Rod Stewart has probably listened to this as much as I have as his vocal styling throughout his career is a dead-red replication of this album. Sometimes, I wish I was born back then (except for the racism and stuff) just so I could have been groovin' in the back of the room. I still, after 9 million listens, get the chills every time "Bring It On Home" breaks in. Whoa!
And in the Number One Spot!
1 - Stevie Wonder - Songs In the Key Of Life - Nothing will ever displace this album...ever. Forget for a moment that it was the soundtrack to my childhood, always playing at my home on Saturday morning when my mother was cleaning the house and still on when my father got back from the golf course. Song after song after song of greatness from the most important singular artist in my lifetime. He paints a picture more vivid that anyone despite having never seen many of the things he describes. "Village Ghetto Land", "I Wish", "Sir Duke", "Isn't She Lovely", "Knocks Me Off My Feet", "Saturn", "Ebony Eyes"...my God, there really isn't a collection of music that I've ever come across that is so completely organic, honest and filled with the reality of the human experience. To me, the greatest work of art of all-time.
I promise to get back to the Burgundy trip, pronto.
JCB the 4th