Sunday, May 06, 2007

Duss's Top 10 Rock Albums

In order of release.

The Beatles, (The White Album)
This is the record that really opened the Beatles up for me. I wouldn’t say it’s their best, that’s Revolver, but something about this grand, brilliant, unfocused mess that creates for me the most palpable atmosphere of any of their recordings.

There’s a Riot Goin’ On, Sly and the Family Stone
It’s title an answer to Marvin Gaye’s question, I think it belongs on a list with Gaye’s masterpiece as one of the great protest records. That the tunes so successfully walk the line between traditional songs and loose jams is all the more amazing given that Sly recorded much of the music himself.

Rock and roll demi-glace. And on the complete other end of the rock spectrum…

From the moment I first heard the BOMP!....BOMP!....BOMMMMMM that opens Foreplay at a Christian youth camp seminar about the evils of rock music, I was hooked. This is bloated, grandiose, hook-laden, radio-ready rock in all its unit-moving glory. Four part choir-boy harmonies? Yes. Double, triple, and quadruple tracked guitars? Hell yes. A drummer with one of the most formidable white guy afros ever? Absolutely.

Marquee Moon, Television
Who writes tunes like these? Television comparisons seem to get thrown around like confetti by rock critics these days, and they’re almost always misplaced. Rock hasn’t seen a front line which comes within sight of the technical skill and improvisational brilliance of Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd, let alone one supported by a back line like Fred Smith and Billy Ficca, since the band broke up in 1978. Except when they’ve reunited and toured.

Learning to Crawl, Pretenders
Chrissie Hynde’s gorgeous vibrato often distracts from her genuinely brilliant songwriting, but I’ve always felt that she deserved a place among rock’s elite. It feels a little odd to nominate this album, as it was the band’s first after the deaths of bassist Pete Farndon and guitarist James Honeyman-Scott, both of whom were integral to creating the band’s sound, but I think this is the record in which Hynde truly came into her own as a songwriter. Session guitarist Robbie McIntosh did a great job of staying true to the band’s established sound while still showing off his own impressive skills.

The Joshua Tree, U2
War came very close to being on this list, but the more I thought about, I realized that this is my favorite of the band’s albums. I remember when it came out it seemed to reveal the meaninglessness of so much else that was on pop radio. Every time I hear it I’m still amazed at how effectively the arrangements and production serve the tunes and lyrics. Side A has the hits, but for me it really comes alive on side B. One Tree Hill and Exit are favorites.

You’re Living All Over Me, Dinosaur Jr.
This record was a Road to Damascus moment for me. You know that great footage of Keith Moon's drums exploding? That's what this record sounds like from beginning to end. I mean, these guys were just pummeling their instruments, the songs were roaring, tempo-shifting masterpieces, and the record sounded like it had been mixed through a Speak n’ Spell. I loved that they didn’t scoff at or reject classic rock conventions as a lot of punks tended to, they embraced and reinterpreted those conventions through a kind of country-punk sensibility. God bless J Mascis for liberating the Big Guitar Solo from the metal ghetto.

Truth and Soul, Fishbone
Rock history is full of bands who never got the recognition they deserved, and Fishbone is one of the most egregiously overlooked. At the height of their powers in the late 80s and early 90s, Fishbone were probably the best live rock band in the world. This collection of songs comes the closest of any of their albums to capturing the eclectic, frenetic, always about to fly off the rails brilliance of their live shows. And it kicks off with a Curtis Mayfield cover.

Loveless, My Bloody Valentine
Among guitar-pop aficionados, this album is kind of a secret handshake. It’s rare that I meet someone who knows it for whom it isn’t a favorite. Gorgeous, lush vocals buried underneath stacks of surging and swooning guitars. An unparalleled achievement in the craft of recording, and a truly sublime work of art. I treasure this album so much that I should probably buy a few more copies to stash in secret locations around the country, just in case.