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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Billboard Top Pop Album Artists

image from epgold.com

Based on the Billboard album chart, these are the top album artists in the history of the chart from 1955-2009:

1. Elvis Presley
2. Frank Sinatra
3. The Beatles
4. Barbra Stresiand
5. The Rolling Stones
6. Johnny Mathis
7. Elton John
8. Bob Dylan
9. Neil Diamond
10. The Temptations

11. Eric Clapton
12. The Beach Boys
13. Rod Stewart
14. Willie Nelson
15. Mantovani
16. Ray Charles
17. Neil Young
18. Ray Conniff
19. Prince
20. Paul McCartney

21. Aretha Franklin
22. George Strait
23. Jimmy Buffett
24. Pink Floyd
25. Chicago
26. David Bowie
27. James Brown
28. Bruce Springsteen
29. Andy Williams
30. The Bee Gees

31. Lawrence Welk
32. Van Morrison
33. Kenny Rogers
34. The Supremes
35. Grateful Dead
36. Henry Mancini
37. The Kingston Trio
38. Barry Manilow
39. Aerosmith
40. Jimi Hendrix

41. Michael Jackson
42. Herb Alpert
43. Stevie Wonder
44. Nat “King” Cole
45. Johnny Cash
46. Metallica
47. Madonna
48. Led Zeppelin
49. U2
50. Queen

51. Roger Williams
52. Kiss
53. Fleetwood Mac
54. Linda Ronstadt
55. The Ventures
56. Santana
57. Garth Brooks
58. Diana Ross
59. James Taylor
60. AC/DC

61. Rush
62. The Who
63. Billy Vaughn
64. Billy Joel
65. Alabama
66. Jefferson Airplane/Starship
67. Alan Jackson
68. Eagles
69. Dionne Warwick
70. Tony Bennett

71. Dave Matthews Band
72. Harry Belafonte
73. The Isley Brothers
74. The Doors
75. John Denver
76. Mitch Miller
77. Mariah Carey
78. Dean Martin
79. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
80. The Lettermen

81. Nancy Wilson
82. Journey
83. Marvin Gaye
84. Jethro Tull
85. Bon Jovi
86. Elvis Costello
87. Dolly Parton
88. Carly Simon
89. Bob Seger
90. The Kinks

91. Tupac Shakur
92. Gladys Knight & the Pips
93. Pearl Jam
94. Kenny G
95. Joan Baez
96. R.E.M.
97. Anne Murray
98. The Monkees
99. Glen Campbell
100. The Jackson 5/The Jacksons


Resources:
  • Joel Whitburn (2010). Top Pop Albums (7th edition). Record Research: Menomonee Falls, WI. Page 951.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

2010 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees

Last week, the 2010 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees were announced. At the onset of the year, I inducted myself into the world of blogging by scrawling down my humble opinions about the 2009 crop of Rock Hall inductees (“How to Get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame”). Obviously someone in high-up places at the Hall read my blog and made some adjustments, albeit minor ones.

A year ago I whined about an apparent bias against progressive rock. This year Genesis has finally broken down that door. Hopefully, Yes, Rush, King Crimson, and others will follow. Now, do we get to see Gabriel on stage with Collins, Rutherford, and Banks? Performing something from Lamb Lies Down on Broadway perhaps?

I also complained about an overemphasis on R&B acts and, lo and behold, this year there are no one-hit wonder doo wop groups from the ‘50s on the list. Instead we have Jimmy Cliff, a reggae artist who is best known for the soundtrack for The Harder They Come, not exactly a must-have for the average fan.

Then again, if it were just about the fans, the Stooges might have prolonged their decade-and-a-half overdue entrance into the Hall. Amongst this year’s batch, no act has more “rock cred.” As architects of what became the punk movement in the ‘70s, Iggy & Co. also can lay claim to being the godfathers of most of the alternative music that followed. The Nirvanas and Pearl Jams that are shoo-in inductees within the next-half decade wouldn’t be here if weren’t for the Stooges.

I also lamented a year ago that being a true rock and roll act doesn’t seem to be a requirement. The Rock Hall made it clear long ago that they were more about popular music of the rock era than actual rock. As such, Abba isn’t exactly what people have in mind when they utter the phrase “rock and roll,” but there’s no question they belong in a pop music hall of fame.

Finally, there’s The Hollies, which sort of straddle the line between pop and rock, but do so in such a way that they deserve being regarded as one of the important bands of the British Invasion.

On the nonperformer end of things, apparently there was an all-out effort to correct some gross oversights. David Geffen, the man who founded Geffen Records and signed artists like the Eagles; Crosby, Stills & Nash; Jackson Browne; and Linda Ronstadt, wasn’t in yet? How about Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil, who helped define the “Brill Building” sound with classics such as “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” which alone should have been an automatic ticket to induction years ago. Similarly, the writing team of Ellie Greenwich & Jeff Barry, who crafted the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” and Ike & Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High,” have been astonishingly overlooked for years.

And when it comes to overlooked songwriters, how has Otis Blackwell been passed over for so long? Songs like “Great Balls of Fire” and “Don’t Be Cruel” are foundations of rock and roll and their creator wasn’t in the Hall yet? There’s also Mort Shuman, who along with Doc Pomus, wrote songs like “Save the Last Dance for Me” and “Viva Las Vegas.” Similarly, Jesse Stone crafted gems like “Shake, Rattle, and Roll” and “Money Honey.”

There’s still acts that need to be inducted (Kiss, Deep Purple, Rush, and more), especially in light of the head-scratching acts whose influence on rock and roll is questionable. Nonetheless, I tip my hat to some of the oversights which the Rock Hall has corrected this time around. I’m so glad I could be a voice of reason for you last year.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Farewell, Eric Woolfson

It was the last week of March in 1984 that I became an Alan Parsons Project fan. “Don’t Answer Me” was climbing the charts, eventually becoming a top 20 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. I knew of the Project before that – “Damned if I Do” and “Games People Play” were album rock staples and “Eye in the Sky” had been a huge pop hit (the biggest of the Project’s career) a couple years before. However, I hadn’t plunked down change for an APP album – until that week when I took the leap and grabbed up not just Ammonia Avenue, which featured “Don’t Answer Me,” but also The Best Of collection which had been released just a few months earlier.

A year later I would joyously plump for 1985’s Vulture Culture and a year after that for Stereotomy. As I was prone to do when discovering music in the ‘80s, I started dipping into the back catalog. Beyond the hits, I stumbled across gems like “Old and Wise” and “Turn of a Friendly Card.” Most amusingly though was, in May 1986 when I was anticipating a new album by Styx frontman Dennis DeYoung. I fell in love with this song on the radio that I thought was surely by him. I was wrong – it turned out to be “Breakdown,” from the nearly-decade old APP album I, Robot.

I learned the requisite back story necessary to claim a band as a new favorite. It turns out the Project’s namesake did engineering work on classic albums such as The Beatles’ Abbey Road and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. However, Alan Parsons wasn’t alone in the creation of those prog-lite concept albums forged from 1976 to 1987 that sold over 40 million albums worldwide. The group owed as much to Eric Woolfson – a songwriter, keyboardist, singer, and manager who lent his chops to some of the group’s best-known songs such as the aforementioned “Eye in the Sky” and “Don’t Answer Me.”

Following 1987’s Gaudi, the Project disappeared for three years, returning in 1990 with Freudiana. The thing confusingly was not credited to anyone, suggesting that it was a new group called Freudiana. However, this Eric Woolfson-helmed project was clearly the Project with Parsons producing and credits including longtime APP players Ian Bairnson on guitar, Stuart Elliott on drums, and orchestral arrangements from Andrew Powell. John Miles and Chris Rainbow, who’d warbled on past-Project tunes, also put in appearances.

There was something different, though. Peppered with far more guests and stretched to twice the length of the average APP album, this felt more like a musical cast album. Sure enough, there in the liner notes was the statement that “the first stage production of Freudiana has its world premiere in December 1990 in Vienna.” Hmm. This was definitely a new direction for the band.

It proved to be a new direction, but for Woolfson, not Parsons. While Woolfson was eager to explore musical theater, it was the jumping off point for Parsons. The Project was no more. Woolfson went on to craft the musicals Gaudi (1995), Gambler (1996), and Poe (recorded 2003, premiered 2009). He also wrote the music and lyrics for 2007’s Dancing Shadows, which won for Best Musical at the Korean Tony Awards.

This year, I was overjoyed to stumble across The Alan Parsons Project That Never Was, an album from Woolfson that combined some unreleased material from the Project days alongside songs crafted for his musicals. Sadly, it would be Woolfson’s finale. As I scanned the various comments on Facebook this morning about who was headed off to work and who needed coffee and who wasn’t enjoying the weather, I stopped sharply upon a fan notice: Eric Woolfson had died of cancer at the age of 64 on December 2, 2009 – a date that will now, sadly, overshadow that wonderful week in March 1984 when I became a fan. Farewell, Eric. You will be missed.


“Somewhere in the midst of time/ When they ask you if you knew me
Remember that you were a friend of mine
As the final curtain lifts before my eyes/ When I’m old and wise.”

- “Old and Wise” – Alan Parsons Project

Click here to hear an early version of the song that featured Eric Woolfson’s guide vocal.


Also check out my page on the detailed history of the Alan Parsons Project as well as the solo work of Parsons and Woolfson at DavesMusicDatabase.com.