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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What Do You Mean, No One Needs 21 Versions of “Purple Haze”?

On my Facebook page for Dave’s Music Database, I recently posted a link about the newest Jimi Hendrix box, due for a November release. I mockingly asserted that the set was necessary because Hendrix just hasn’t been anthologized enough.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. For a man dead since 1970, he has an astonishing ability to continue to release product. On my DMDB web page for Hendrix, I spotlight nine collections of studio material released after his death and six live albums. These are just the most significant official releases.

I’ve long joked that the true sign of a great musician is an ability to make music from beyond the grave. The best dead stars all have this talent – Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, and Tupac Shakur. The late rap titan has even landed three posthumous #1 albums, a feat which, to my knowledge, has yet to be matched by any other performer six feet under.

Of course, the bigger commentary here concerns recording companies’ crass efforts to turn the deceased’s every grunt, croak, or belch captured on tape into gold. Perhaps nowhere is this greed better on display than via the handlers of Hendrix’s catalog through the ‘70s and well into the ‘90s, before the Hendrix estate wrestled control back. The three studio albums made during Jimi’s life are staples on best-of-all-time album lists; you won’t see anything after he died showing up on these lists.

Still, record companies don’t shovel out the product in steady streams if no one’s dropping cash. Fortunately for them, there will always be lunatics and freaks willing to shell out the bucks for that never-before-released thirteenth take of “Insert Title of Obscure Album Track Here” because, after all, this is the one that included the producer barking out a couple orders to the formerly-living-and-breathing music maker before recording commenced.

It is here that I will attempt to both awkwardly distance myself from such behavior while simultaneously embracing it. In the aforementioned Facebook post, I confessed to having 21 versions of “Purple Haze.” I don’t mean covers of the song – I mean 21 versions all done by Hendrix. I didn’t intentionally seek out that many; I just slowly accumulated them from picking up a live collection here, a box set of studio outtakes there. This is, by my own admission, behavior worthy of serious psychological evaluation. What can one possibly need with that many versions of a song?

Well, my friends, this is the distinction between the casual music fan and the gone-round-the-bend fanatic. Frankly, my completist tendencies rear their ugly head once an act crosses from the “yeah, I like them” to the “oh, I love them” threshold. My sanity goes out the window and I gobble up every scrap I can find like a vampire craving a blood smoothie. I have 33 CDs of Kevin Gilbert music; only ten are official releases and even those are obscure.

For some, such behavior is all about bragging rights. Maybe it’s a Deadhead who can boast to possessing a rare bootleg of a long ago show or a Beatlemaniac who claims to have tape of the long-lost “Carnival of Lights” track. Sometimes it is just about “having it all.” Once you have the thirty-something studio albums by Dylan, why stop?

For others, it genuinely is a musical journey in which they legitimately pick out the distinctions in 21 different versions of “Purple Haze.” Maybe they can trace how the song first developed in the studio to how it transformed on the stage. Maybe they become enthralled with how Hendrix changes the guitar solo here and there.

Personally, I lack the musicianship to notice that the third take of some long forgotten album cut included a snare drum absent from the version released on the B-side of an obscure Scottish single. As for impressing others with individual acts in my collection, most people are in awe enough of the sheer total size to dig deep enough to notice that I have over six hundred Bob Dylan songs.

So why do I have 600+ Dylan songs and 33 Kevin Gilbert CDs and 21 versions of “Purple Haze”? Dunno. Just do. Stay tuned – numbers destined to change as quickly as the miles roll by on an odometer.

For daily doses of my musical obsession, check out Dave’s Music Database Facebook page.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Consequence of Sound - Top 100 Albums of All Time

image from newmossrecords.com

Consequence of Sound’s “Top 100 Albums Ever

1. The Beatles: Abbey Road (1969)
2. The Beach Boys: Pet Sounds (1966)
3. The Clash: London Calling (1979)
4. Michael Jackson: Thriller (1982)
5. The Velvet Underground & Nico: Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)
6. Bruce Springsteen: Born to Run (1975)
7. Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon (1973)
8. The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
9. Talking Heads: Remain in Light (1980)
10. Radiohead: OK Computer (1997)

11. Bob Dylan: Blonde on Blonde (1966)
12. The Rolling Stones: Let It Bleed (1969)
13. Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin IV (1971)
14. Pixies: Doolittle (1989)
15. Joy Division: Unknown Pleasures (1979)
16. The Who: Who’s Next (1971)
17. Kate Bush: Hounds of Love (1985)
18. David Bowie: Hunky Dory (1971)
19. Marvin Gaye: What’s Going On (1971)
20. Neutral Milk Hotel: In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (1998)

21. Van Morrison: Astral Weeks (1968)
22. The Beatles: The Beatles (aka “The White Album”) (1968)
23. Public Enemy: It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988)
24. Neil Young: After the Gold Rush (1970)
25. Peter Gabriel: So (1986)
26. Johnny Cash: At Folsom Prison (1968)
27. Jimi Hendrix Experience: Are You Experienced? (1967)
28. Joni Mitchell: Blue (1971)
29. AC/DC: Back in Black (1980)
30. Bob Dylan: Highway 61 Revisited (1965)

31. Ramones: Rocket to Russia (1977)
32. Nirvana: Nevermind (1991)
33. Simon & Garfunkel: Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970)
34. U2: The Joshua Tree (1987)
35. Guns N’ Roses: Appetite for Destruction (1987)
36. Stevie Wonder: Talking Book (1972)
37. The Police: Synchronicity (1983)
38. Pink Floyd: The Wall (1979)
39. Meat Loaf: Bat Out of Hell (1977)
40. The Beatles: Revolver (1966)

41. Patti Smith: Horses (1975)
42. Bruce Springsteen: Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978)
43. David Bowie: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972)
44. Miles Davis: Bitches Brew (1970)
45. Nick Drake: Pink Moon (1972)
46. The Rolling Stones: Exile on Main Street (1972)
47. Dr. Dre: The Chronic (1992)
48. The Stooges: Raw Power (1973)
49. Black Sabbath: Paranoid (1970)
50. Prince & the Revolution: Purple Rain (soundtrack, 1984)

51. Sonic Youth: Daydream Nation (1988)
52. The Replacements: Let It Be (1984)
53. Bob Marley & the Wailers: Exodus (1977)
54. The Strokes: Is This It (2001)
55. Prefab Sprout: Steve McQueen (aka “Two Wheels Good”) (1985)
56. The Who: Quadrophenia (1973)
57. Genesis: Genesis (1983)
58. Fleetwood Mac: Rumours (1977)
59. My Bloody Valentine: Loveless (1991)
60. The Band: Music from Big Pink (1968)

61. Green Day: Dookie (1994)
62. Wu-Tang Clan: Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993)
63. R.E.M.: Document (1987)
64. The Doors: The Doors (1967)
65. Arcade Fire: Funeral (2004)
66. Devo: Duty Now for the Future (1979)
67. Leonard Cohen: The Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967)
68. Lauryn Hill: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998)
69. The Smiths: The Smiths (1984)
70. The Beatles: Rubber Soul (1965)

71. Tom Waits: Rain Dogs (1985)
72. Red Hot Chili Peppers: Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991)
73. Radiohead: Kid A (2000)
74. Bob Dylan: Blood on the Tracks (1975)
75. Jay-Z: The Blueprint (2001)
76. Sigur Ros: Agaetis Byrjun (1999)
77. Cat Stevens: Tea for the Tillerman (1970)
78. Sly & the Family Stone: There’s a Riot Goin’ On (1971)
79. Bjork: Post (1995)
80. Paul Simon: Graceland (1986)

81. Neil Young: Harvest (1972)
82. Smashing Pumpkins: Siamese Dream (1993)
83. John Lennon: Imagine (1971)
84. The Who: Tommy (1969)
85. Michael Jackson: Off the Wall (1979)
86. Elton John: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973)
87. N.W.A.: Straight Outta Compton (1989)
88. Nine Inch Nails: The Downward Spiral (1994)
89. Beastie Boys: Paul’s Boutique (1989)
90. Refused: The Shape of Punk to Come (1998)

91. The Clash: The Clash (1977)
92. Pavement: Slanted and Enchanted (1992)
93. Parliament: Mothership Connection (1975)
94. Metallica: Kill ‘Em All (1983)
95. Pink Floyd: Wish You Were Here (1975)
96. Beck: Midnite Vultures (1999)
97. Elliott Smith: Either/Or (1997)
98. Led Zeppelin: Physical Graffiti (1975)
99. Talking Heads: Fear of Music (1979)
100. Kanye West: The College Dropout (2004)


Friday, September 10, 2010

VH1 – 100 Greatest Artists of All Time

image from vh1.com

This was originally posted on the DMDB Facebook page the week of September 6-10, 2010, when VH1 originally presented this countdown. The five segments and my commentary have been stitched together here as one piece.


September 10, 2010:

The countdown is over. For all its flaws, at least they put the Beatles at #1. They had so many people throughout the countdown singing the praises of Michael Jackson that I was afraid the gloved one was going to trump the Fab Four. Of course, rankings on a list such as this become almost silly to debate, but that would have been a crime! I would agree that MJ has had more impact on the music industry in the last 30 years than any other recording act. However, when one looks beyond 30 years, the title quickly falls to the Beatles or Elvis (sadly rated way too low at #8). All in all, there are some definite head scratchers here (Cheap Trick? Sade?) and the list should be called the “100 Greatest Artists of the Rock Era” or the “100 Greatest Artists of the Last 60 Years”, but there are a lot of deserving artists here.

1. The Beatles
2. Michael Jackson
3. Led Zeppelin
4. Rolling Stones
5. Bob Dylan
6. Jimi Hendrix
7. Prince
8. Elvis Presley
9. James Brown
10. Stevie Wonder
11. Bob Marley
12. David Bowie
13. The Who
14. Nirvana
15. The Beach Boys
16. Madonna
17. Queen
18. Pink Floyd
19. U2
20. Marvin Gaye


September 9, 2010:

Well, instead of continuing to whine about who isn’t on this list, I’ll celebrate my favorite moment of the countdown so far. The reason for making shows like this is to see someone like Run-D.M.C.’s Darryl McDaniel nearly in tears saying that Elton John saved his life. That’s the power of music.

21. Bruce Springsteen
22. The Clash
23. AC/DC
24. The Velvet Underground
25. Chuck Berry
26. Neil Young
27. Aretha Franklin
28. Elton John
29. Radiohead
30. Aerosmith
31. John Lennon
32. Black Sabbath
33. Guns N' Roses
34. Tina Turner
35. Johnny Cash
36. Paul McCartney
37. Fleetwood Mac
38. Sly & The Family Stone
39. The Kinks
40. The Police


September 8, 2010:

Well, for all my bluster about this countdown’s inability to hear a note of music that occurred prior to 1950, they’ve gone and done it! They’ve humiliated me and proven how off I am by reaching WAAAAY back, all the way to…1949. That’s when Ray Charles (#43) first hit the R&B charts with the Maxine Trio and the song “Confession Blues.” My sincerest apologies to VH1 for assuming they couldn’t remember music from more than 60 years ago. Who knew they’d go so far back – to a whopping 61 years ago? What will they think of next? Ranking someone like, oh, I don’t know, Sade, ahead of Little Richard? No! They’d never do that, would they?

41. Van Halen
42. Metallica
43. Ray Charles
44. Joni Mitchell
45. Al Green
46. Ramones
47. Jay-Z
48. Rage Against the Machine
49. Parliament-Funkadelic
50. Sade
51. Billy Joel
52. Beyonce
53. Little Richard
54. Public Enemy
55. Peter Gabriel
56. KISS
57. Iggy & the Stooges
58. Cheap Trick
59. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
60. Whitney Houston


September 7, 2010:

With another 20 artists counted down, there’s still no sign of anything prior to 1950. I’m sure that’s because Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, and Hank Williams are in the loftier rungs of the list, right?

61. Cream
62. Genesis
63. The Notorious B.I.G.
64. Talking Heads
65. The Doors
66. Justin Timberlake
67. Coldplay
68. Otis Redding
69. Tupac Shakur
70. Def Leppard
71. R.E.M.
72. Janis Joplin
73. Van Morrison
74. The Cure
75. Rush
76. Run-D.M.C.
77. Lynyrd Skynyrd
78. Judas Priest
79. Eminem
80. Mary J. Blige


September 6, 2010:

Sigh. I love collecting lists – it is the reason for Dave’s Music Database – but VH1’s latest is the kind that leaves me shaking my head and rolling my eyes. VH1 started their countdown Monday night (9/6) that will go all week, one hour each night, revealing #1 on Friday. The list was created by compiling votes from more than 200 of today’s music stars. I intend to blog in what is likely to be excruciating detail over my pet peeves regarding this list, but let me just say for now that I’d just about bet my entire music collection against names like Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Beethoven actually making this list.

Here’s the list so far:

81. Abba
82. Steely Dan
83. Earth, Wind & Fire
84. Curtis Mayfield
85. The Band
86. N.W.A.
87. George Michael
88. Bee Gees
89. Beastie Boys
90. Elvis Costello
91. Green Day
92. LL Cool J
93. Pearl Jam
94. Mariah Carey
95. OutKast
96. Journey
97. Pretenders
98. Depeche Mode
99. Daryl Hall & John Oates
100. Alicia Keys

Without going into personal opinions about who is here so far, I can’t help but share the most shocking moment so far: John Oates no longer has a mustache. Suddenly, ‘80s pop music as I knew it has lost all meaning.


Resources and Related Links:

The Greatest Artists of All Time…Or at Least Since 1950

Sigh. I love collecting lists – it is the reason for Dave’s Music Database – but VH1’s latest is the kind that leaves me shaking my head and rolling my eyes. VH1 started their countdown Monday (9/6) and ran it all week, an hour a night, revealing #1 on Friday (9/10). The list was compiled by gathering votes from over 200 of today’s music stars. Check out the list here.

The reason I compile multiple lists and average them together is to weed out some of the idiosyncrasies of individual lists and offer up at least slightly more objective results. VH1’s list suffers from the most gargantuan of the “greatest” list flaws – the absurdly, over-the-top “greatest of all time” claim. Really? All time, huh? Apparently if you look up “all-time” in the VH1 office thesaurus, it lists “last 60 years” as a synonym.

We won’t even get into how most music lists are oblivious to artists who have recorded outside of the Western world and in any language other than English. Even my aggregate lists can’t correct that problem. Sorry, Wei Wei. Maybe you have sold 200 million records – which out-distances the likes of U2, David Bowie, and Prince – but since the non-Chinese speaking world pretty much has no idea who you are, you don’t exist.

Here’s another pet peeve – to me, “artist” implies an individual performer while the more appropriate “act” suggests either an individual or group. That may be more a personal quibble over language, though, so we’ll let it slide.

As long as I’m linguistically nitpicking, though, I’d also prefer a less inflammatory proclamation than “greatest.” The word immediately invites scorn, begging boorish morons to unleash potty mouths on blogs, shredding all those deemed unworthy of a “greatest” tag and crucify the list for overlooking their personal favorites. While a simple title change will not dissuade haters from loudly (and poorly) trumpeting their completely subjective opinions as facts, can we at least go with a title like “The Top 100”? At least that heading implies that the data was gathered in some objective manner and that the list is merely a presentation of those who were the top vote getters.

But let’s go back to that All Time = Last 60 Years point. The oldest act on the list is Ray Charles. His first chart hit goes back to 1951. If we include his work with the Maxine Trio, we can even go back as far as 1949. This means, roughly, that VH1 is unaware of the existence of music prior to the rock and roll era. At least a 1998 list also generated by the network acknowledged Robert Johnson, B.B. King, and Muddy Waters as well. The latter two date to the ‘40s while Johnson goes all the way to 1936. Still, that doesn’t mean that VH1 actually knew these artists made music before 1950. After all, these are generally considered influential acts in the development of rock ‘n’ roll, so maybe VH1 also considers them part of the rock era.

Of course, VH1 just tabulated the results of today’s current recording artists’ votes, so really shouldn’t be held responsible for the callous neglect by today’s musicians of music made before they were born. That being the case, let me offer up a gentle reminder for the next go-round that there is actual documented proof of recorded music prior to 1950. One doesn’t even need to dig through the vaults at the Library of Congress to find them. They are as close as one’s Internet-capable device of choice. Here’s a few acts to check out:

1900s: Billy Murray, Henry Burr, Byron G. Harlan, Arthur Collins
1910s: Al Jolson, Ben Selvin
1920s: Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Paul Whiteman, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Guy Lombardo
1930s: Frank Sinatra, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday
1940s: Nat “King” Cole, Hank Williams

These are just the most notable artists of the era of recorded music prior to the 1950s. Asking these musicians to explore the world before the existence of iPods, CDs, tapes, eight tracks, and phonographs would be roughly the equivalent of asking Sarah Palin to accept that creatures trolled this Earth more than 6000 years ago. Despite the evidence, we’ll continue living in the odd musical vacuum that selects Cheap Trick and LL Cool J as greatest artists of all time while blissfully wandering through life unaware that Beethoven and Mozart ever walked the planet.

Besides, a simple name change to the list can forgive these omissions. Taking into account my other suggestions, how about re-christening the list “The Top 100 Acts of the Rock Era”? That would fix everything, now wouldn’t it?

Well, not exactly. There are some significant acts from the last six decades who are overlooked. First off, back in 1998, even VH1 acknowledged Fats Domino, Buddy Holly, Miles Davis, Sam Cooke, Eric Clapton, the Byrds, Rod Stewart, the Supremes, and the Temptations. Now that a dozen years have passed, apparently these acts’ contributions pale in comparison to the legacies of Sade and the Notorious B.I.G.

I’m picking on VH1 for all this, but these are not unique problems. Listmakers tend to make bold proclamations. Hey, it generates interest and let’s face it, accurate titles like “VH1 Submits a Bunch of Ballots to People Who Make Music So That We Can Compile the Results and Present a Top 100 List of the Results Over Five Nights and Hopefully Make a Lot of Money Off Ad Revenues” just doesn’t roll off the tongue.

Oh, well. Enough whining for now. I’ve got to get to work on the latest DMDB list. Coming soon: “The Latest Top 100 of All Time List Presented by Dave’s Music Database in Hopes of Getting You to Become a Facebook Fan, Regular DMDB Reader, and Eventual Customer for the Slew of DMDB Books I Hope to Publish.” Enjoy!

For daily doses of my musical obsession, check out the Dave’s Music Database Facebook page.