Thursday, May 7, 2009

5 great albums you never heard of

I'm reading: 5 great albums you never heard ofTweet this!
Actually if you're a music nerd you may have heard of these. Following on my aimless recommendation of MC Honky and Emergency Broadcast Network, here are 5 of my favorite lesser-known albums.

Masters of Reality - Sunrise on the Sufferbus
I wish I was a rabbit
Rabbits can run
I'd be 15 thousand miles away
Before you shoot your gun

A music nerd friend hooked me up with this band; they're great, and this album is awesome. Varying from the '70s rock racing heartbeat of "She's Got Me (When She Got Her Dress On)" to whimsical stuff like "T.U.S.A." where drummer Ginger Baker (of Cream) complains that us Yanks can't make a proper cup of tea. Led by Chris Goss, producer of albums for Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age, they swing from blues rock to prog and this album is their best. There's not a bad song on it, with themes ranging from peering at a witch's dance in the moonlight, visiting the rolling green fields of what I like to think is Scotland, to the silly jazz fun of "Ants in the Kitchen." I wanna thank banjo-boy Andy for introducing me to this band, and Medeski, Martin & Wood.

The Dirtbombs - Horndog Fest

You won't catch the furry from the music, just don't jack off to the album cover

Overlook the furry cover and listen to this motor city garage rock band. Fuzz and grunge guitar by Mick Collins, who's probably been in every Detroit band in the last 20 years. This early album jumps around from punk infused soul and silly ditties like "Granny's Little Chicken," which still cracks me up. Mick was in The Gories and that same sense of fun is in this band. I met Mick ages ago and but have yet to see him play live; I was in Hawaii the last time they played Maxwell's. That will be remedied soon.

John Fahey - The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death

You can see this album cover in A Clockwork Orange in the record store scenes.

John Fahey was a steel string guitar player known for being part of the '60s folk revival, though he said "how can I be a 'folk'? I'm from the suburbs, you know." I highly respect both his love of old American music and his unpretentious attitude toward it, unlike Robert Zimmerman, aka Bob Dylan, the self-styled folk hero. This album came out in '65 and despite sounding like uncovered standards, was mostly written by Fahey, though a medley or two incorporated old songs. The first time I listened to this album I felt transported to a mystical folk world created by Mark Twain and Robert Crumb. I bought it thinking it was banjo, since I have one that I never learned to play. But it remains one of my favorite vinyl slabs to play on a quiet rainy day.

Alice Cooper - From the Inside
"They got this place, where they been keepin' me,
where I can't hurt myself, can't get my wrists to bleed"

I like a good concept album, and Alice Cooper's from 1980 was about a mental institution, fitting with his morbid themes. The songs are mostly character pieces, from the suicidal "The Quiet Room" to the rich party girl locked up to stop embarrassing her family "Wish I Was Born in Beverly Hills," to the crazy vet and "Jackknife Johnny." The album has a great gatefold cover of Alice's face that opens up to the mental hospital, which seems inspired by One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Bernie Taupin, Elton John's lyricist partner, joined Alice to write the songs. It's not amazing, but it's a lot of fun and very different for Cooper! Recommended to me by a crazy girl in high school who walked in front of a car to commit suicide, then collected $20k in damages when she survived. But she hugged me a lot with no bra on, so she was ok. Mheeheh, boobies.

Jefferson Starship - Blows Against the Empire
"It's a fresh wind that blows against the empire."

A friend in high school lent this to me and it captures the final death of hippie idealism best described by Hunter S Thompson as "with the right kind of eyes, you can see the watermark where the wave broke, and rolled back." This was hippies giving up on changing society, and wishing for a starship to come and take them from Earth so they could create flower child utopia on planet Bong. Ranging from light folk such as "The Baby Tree" to angry cries like "Sunrise," where Grace Slick revolts against "two thousand years of your god-damn glory." The story follows a couple who have a child, tire of a cruel society and lying government, and join the resistance to hijack a starship NASA has been building, with all the other like-minded folks. Loosely based on Heinlein's book Methuselah's Children and written with his permission, it is a snapshot of the time after the assassinations of '68, when idealism was dying and leading to more direct and violent means. This eventually led to them taking so much drugs that they wrote "Light the Sky on Fire," which would be used in the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special.

1 comment:

  1. I'm always telling everyone who I suspect of music nerdery to check out Sunrise on the Sufferbus - I'm glad you did!

    The other album nobody's heard of that I'm always pimping is 'Fantastic Planet' by Failure, 1996. It's epic!

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