Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to praise an album that contains life; electric word, life; it means dancealicious grooves and a few scintillating ballads, and maybe some explicit lyrics. Prince exploded with this album, fusing his admiration for Carlos Santana guitar licks to his love of old-school funk beats. He took musical chances, from the bassless “When Doves Cry” to the hyper-technofied “Computer Blue,” and they just about all work. Despite being infamous for spawning parental advisory labels, “Darling Nikki” is gorgeous, almost as much so as “The Beautiful Ones,” one of the greatest singles that never was.29. James Brown – Live At the Apollo (1963)
It is all here – everything that made James Brown the greatest. Even from this relatively early point, the groundwork has been laid for Brown’s mind-melting funk in this sweaty r & b workout. Start and stop rhythms punctuate James’ blistering exultations of joy and sorrow in the guttural space beyond words. Perhaps the strongest instrument on here is the crowd, and James knows how to play it like a master, calling and responding until he has to scream. If only we could watch him dance, then this album might be able to save the lives of everyone whose lost someone.
Bob Marley he isn’t, but Afroman uses more reggae than just about any other rapper out there, and with skill. Afroman’s underrated raps also incorporate rock and gospel. Lyrically he’s an imaginative MC who is not afraid to push a few buttons. In “Crazy Rap,” Afroman raps about getting head from Colonel Sander’s wife. In “The American Dream” Afroman includes homosexuals and teenage mothers in his vision of a unified
All those annoying little ska boys are a small price to pay for this landmark of jazz-punk fusion. Finally garnering The Clash the attention they deserved in
A breakup in three acts with an epilogue. Act One: Jill is tired of being the poor person in her relationship and its really dragging things down. It’s not looking good for the couple. Act Two: Jill retreats from the relationship by engaging in activism, singing a series of political songs dealing with issues ranging from drug abuse to schoolyard teasing to child prostitution in
“Naked funk” is what Prince labeled the bare-bones, demoesque style he unleashed on Dirty Mind, and naked certainly seems to be his modus operandi here. “Sister” is a song about you-know-what with you-know-who. “Head” is about something that goes on below the shoulders, or below the belt. Many of the lurid encounters leave the narrator confused and alone, however, and the album ends on a serious note with the intoxicating dance groove of “Partyup,” a song that suggests late-night dancing as a way of escaping the paranoia created by Reagan’s Cold War policies. This is the first great Prince album.
24. Stevie Wonder – Innervisions (1973)
Falling in the center of a fabulous quintilogy, Innervisions is a massively powerful album, seamlessly blending political and spiritual concerns into a harmonic tapestry of funk, soul, gospel and jazz. “Living In the City” is one of the most powerful singles ever, and the thematic template for Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message.” “Don’t You Worry About A Thing” and “He’s A Misstra Know It All” are similarly powerful attacks on being self-centered. Between the white-hot funk of “Higher Ground” and “Jesus Children of America,” Stevie slips in some beautiful ballads, like “Visions” and “Golden Lady,” making this a very balanced album.The Doors endlessly. In the long-term, it not only made me see pop cultu re as something serious, but as something worthy of serious study. It led me to discovering music beyond the Doors and real poetry that bore little resemblance to Jim Morrison's drug-addled ramblings. I'd never heard organ before, and the sound was a revelation. It played over and over at my thirteenth birthday pa rty. Adolescence still chills me.
22. Nuggets – Original Artyfacts From the Original Psychedelic Era (1972, 1998)
Few box sets can brag of being hitless, but this one can, and does. Originally twenty-seven tracks of exquisite acid rock madness, Rhino expanded the original two-record set to four cds, featuring three times the tracks that appeared on the original. The result is no less glorious for the distillation. Many songs sounds like dead on imitations of different artists – Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane – but the reverse seems just as likely after a few spins. From Count Five’s “Psychotic Reaction” to The Standell’s “Good Guys Don’t Wear White,” this set is a treasure trove of underappreciated gems.
A promotional poster for this album claimed it was “made in 1953 for 1983.” This album is thirty years ahead of its time, which means we’ve almost caught up with it. Rockabilly-fueled punk, this album paves the way for 80s New Wave. The Attractions are in top form here, playing every instrument like it is the lead. The bass in particular stands out, especially on tracks such as “The Beat” and “Living In Paradise.” The stop-start feel of many songs pushes the adrenaline. For being considered a forerunner of the punk movement, this sounds big enough to be arena rock.