Friday, October 10, 2008

Weekend Listomania (Special Three is the Loneliest Number Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental houseboy Hop-Sing -- you know...THAT one -- are off to a weekend vigil outside the Austin, Texas home of dog-burning enthusiast Toby Petzold. Apparently the poor lad is on some kind of suicide watch brought on by depression over the current presidential polling results, and we're going to camp outside his miserable hovel humble apartment with chicken soup and Oxycontin in case he does something rash.

In any case, as a result, posting by moi will necessarily be somewhat fitful for a few days.

But until then, as always, here's a fun project for you all to contemplate:

Post-Elvis Pop/Rock Band or Solo Act With At Least Three Genuinely Great Studio Albums To Their Credit!!!

Totally arbitrary rule: The 60s Holy Trinity -- Beatles, Stones, Dylan -- need not apply. Anybody else -- Ross Bagdasarian, Mrs. Miller, anybody -- is eligible. But not those guys, for the obvious reason that they're too obvious.

Incidentally, I was somewhat surprised while putting this together that there are lots -- and I mean lots! -- of artists I think have at least two masterpieces to their credit (the Kinks, the Clash, and the Beach Boys come immediately to mind). Artists with three? Not so many.

Okay, that said, here's my totally top of my head Top Seven:

7. The Who

Sell Out, Who's Next, and either Tommy or Quadrophenia, depending on my mood.

6. Elvis Costello

My Aim is True, This Years Model and Armed Forces are pretty much unarguable, nest-ce pas?

5. Smashing Pumpkins

Okay, just kidding, but as I promised last week, it's time to resume our project of working Billy Corgan's pretentious bald noggin into every Listomania from now till doomsday.

4. Joni Mitchell

Ladies of the Canyon, Blue, and Court and Spark are all indispensable. And I think you can make a case for Hissing of Summer Lawns or Hejira. Or even Clouds, for crying out loud. Incidentally -- if "River" (the YouTube clip above) doesn't make you cry, I don't want to know you.

3. Stevie Wonder

Talking Book, Innervisions, and Songs in the Key of Life. A genius, obviously.

2. Neil Young

Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, Harvest, and After the Gold Rush -- all great, no? And arguably several others since, of course. Incidentally, Buffalo Springfield didn't make the cut because their third and last album, wonderful as it is, is patchy compared to their first two. IMHO.

And the coolest artist with at least three masterpieces under his belt, please, it's not even a contest because the guy's never made a bad album, so don't even think about bugging me with somebody else, is ---

1. Richard Thompson

Liege and Lief (with Fairport Convention), I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight, and Shoot Out The Lights. Each totally different, each totally brilliant.

Awrighty then -- what would your choices be?

[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania [theme: battle scenes!] is now up over at Box Office. As always, if you could see your way over there to leave a comment, an angel gets its wings.]


Mister Pleasant said...

Excellent Listomania this week, Steve.

EC and the Attractions have been on my headphones frequently these last few weeks, and I have to say that Trust, Imperial Bedroom, King of America, and Blood and Chocolate are every bit as great as the three albums you listed.

And the Kinks? Face to Face, Village Green Preservation Society and Arthur all pass the test for me.

As a documented Procol Harum fan, I find it odd you left them off the list. On the merits of their first four LPs - Procol Harum, Shine on Brightly, A Salty Dog and Home - I believe they easily make the list.

Even though Third took me years to appreciate, I would nominate Big Star as perhaps the only band whose entire studio output meets the criteria.

Last but not least, once the Pretty Things moved beyond R&B, they made some awesome records. S. F. Sorrow, Parachute and yes, even Silk Torpdeo get under my skin in the best way.

Wendy said...

Okay, I'll say it: U2. (I know ... surprise, surprise).

Specifically Joshua Tree, Achtung Baby, and All That You Can't Leave Behind.

Rolling Stone called it (ATYCLB) U2's "third masterpiece" alongside The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby. The album debuted at number one in 22 countries and its world-wide hit single, "Beautiful Day" earned three Grammy Awards. The album's other singles, "Walk On", "Elevation", and "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of" also won Grammy Awards.

Well deserved, imho.

Wendy said...

And, since you included Joni Mitchell, I'll have to go with Paul Simon: Still Crazy After All These Years, Graceland, and Rhythm of the Saints.

TJWood said...

Would you be willing to take the Byrds with Fifth Dimension, Younger Than Yesterday, and Sweetheart of the Rodeo?

I will mention that I do see that you've listed at least two albums as masterpieces that you apparently haven't always rated as such:

Armed Forces, which you reviewed in the Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review in 1979 in a joint review with Graham Parker's Squeezing Out Sparks, and intimated was a disappointment that paled in comparison to the Parker album, and

Harvest, which, in a 1977 joint review of Crosby, Stills & Nash's CSN and Young's American Stars 'n Bars, you referred to as "lush, vacuous, and generally overproduced".

Not a criticism--we all have albums that we've altered opinions on over the years. I just thought it was interesting to bring up:)

Mister Pleasant said...

Brooklyn Girl - you are absolutely right about Paul Simon, though I would include his wonderful first solo album in place of Rhythm, which I must admit I have never heard.

And to TJWood's good call on the Byrds - I would add The Notrorious Byrds Brothers - which I think contains their best work.

Anonymous said...

What? No Bruce??? Dude.

- Born to Run
- The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle
- Magic

I play those all the way through. I cherry-pick off Born in the USA, Darkness on the Edge of Town and The River, or I could see including one of those, too.

Anonymous said...

Meat Loaf! (Just kidding...)

Off the top of my head - The Band -
"Big Pink," "The Band," and "Rock of Ages," (if a live album is acceptable..)
Steve Earle - "Guitar Town," "Train A Comin'," "I Feel Alright..."
Al Green - "Belle Album," "Explores Your Mind," Let's Stay Together..."
Aretha Franklin - "Amazing Grace," "Lady Soul," I Never Loved a Man.."
(In fact MANY in the soul/blues/jazz arena, but I;m coming up short vis a vis rock 'n roll...)
- bill buckner

Dave said...

I have no idea what the second masterpiece of the Beach Boys you are referring to (Smile?), but they are in easily, as far as I'm concerned, with Pet Sounds, Today!, Friends, and Smile.

And I agree with the other commenter about the Kinks, and would name the three identical albums.

Who Am Us Anyway? said...

The Hold Steady: Almost Killed Me, Separation Sunday, Boys and Girls in America. I haven’t picked up #4 yet, Stay Positive, but I’m sure I’ll love it.

Re Kinks, I strongly agree with Mr. Pleasant and would add Muswell Hillbillies.

Anonymous said...

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steve simels said...

Mea culpa -- Procol and the Byrds got left off just because I was in a hurry.

Bruce? I love E-Street and Born to Run, but I'm not convinced that any of the rest of them are quite that good. Ditto Paul Simon -- I love the first album and Graceland, but I'm not sure about the rest.

Oh, and The Beach Boys second masterpiece, for me anyway, is Today.

And did I really knock Armed Forces and Harvest back in the day?
I think the phrase that comes to mind is "What a maroon."

Sal Nunziato said...

Marvin Gaye- What's Goin' On, Let's Get It On, I Want You

David Bowie- Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust, Station To Station

MBowen said...

Graham Parker - Howlin' Wind, Heat Treatment, Squeezing Out Sparks

Fairport Convention - What We Did On Our Holidays, Unhalfbricking, Liege & Lief (all three released in 1969, BTW)

Richard & Linda Thompson - I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight, Hokey Pokey, Pour Down Like Silver

The Replacements - Let It Be, Tim, Pleased To Meet Me

The Loud Family - Plants and Birds and Rocks and Things, Interbabe Concern, Days for Days

The Pretenders - Pretenders, Pretenders II, Learning To Crawl

MBowen said...

Oh, and R.E.M. - Murmur, Document, Automatic For The People

Anonymous said...

how did you leave off the BEATLES ?

Eli and the Thirteenth Confession New York Tendaberry reissued
gonna Take a miracle

Anonymous said...

Love so many of these choices - Kinks, U2, The Band!

In addition to many of the ones mentioned, I would add:

Pere Ubu, for Modern Dance, Dub Housing and their late 80s masterpiece, Cloudland.

Grateful Dead, for Anthem of the Sun, Workingman's Dead and American Beauty.

Pink Floyd, for Saucerful of Secrets, Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here.

Talking Heads, for '77, More Songs About Buildings and Food and Remain in Light.

Lou Reed, for Transformer, Berlin and either New York or Street Hassle.

For that matter, the Velvet Underground, for their original 4-album oeuvre.

Damn, I'll probably be thinking in 3's all day....

Anonymous said...

Jimi Hendrix: Are You Experienced, Electric Ladyland, Axis Bold as Love

Pink Floyd: Wish You Were Here, The Wall, Dark Side of the Moon

Nirvana: Nevermind, Unplugged in NY, In Utero

Eric Clapton (Richard Thompson rules apply): Cream, Blind Faith, Layla

Michael said...

I'll second the Beatles, with different choices:

Sgt. Pepper
Something New

and add Elton John:

Tumbleweed Connection
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy

Wendy said...

Um, well, he did say no Beatles, Stones, or Dylan ...

We will have to agree to disagree about Paul Simon and Bruce.

I wish I could throw the Airplane and the Doors into the mix, since they created some of the most iconic music of our lifetimes, and in both cases, they put out two albums each that are "must haves" ... but in good conscience, I guess I can't.

Wendy said...

And how could I forget Steely Dan?

My three personal faves are Can't Buy a Thrill, Pretzel Logic, and Aja, three more records I play all the way through ... but I'm sure other Dan fans would choose three others.

David said...

Van the Man: Astral Weeks, Moondance, Tupelo Honey...hard to beat that trifecta....

David Rasmussen said...

I was sure XTC was inadvertently omitted, but to my ears Go2 and Skylarking are the masterpieces. For Young Fresh Fellows, it is The Men Who Loved Music and Fabulous Sounds of the Pacific Northwest. Just two.
I agree with the Talking Heads selections from gummo.

My only addition is:
Something Fierce: Gone All Wobbly, Completely Unglued, Franklin Pierce. (A Sound for Sore Ears is also a masterpiece, though a slightly unfinished masterpiece.)

Anonymous said...

oops on the beatles - my bad

Hearts Of Stone

Graham Parsons
Burrito Deluxe : Flying Burrito Brothers (1970)
Grievous Angel : Gram Parsons (1974) (had to stick this one in )
Sleepless Nights: Gram Parsons & the Flying Burrito Brothers (1976)

Shabooh Shoobah
The Swing

Anonymous said...

A few more:

Randy Newman - Good Old Boys, Sail Away, Little Criminals

Tom Petty (& The Heartbreakers) - TP&TH, Damn the Torpedos, Full Moon Fever

The Band - Music from Big Pink, The Band, Rock of Ages (if live albums count)

Tom Waits - Small Change, Nighthawks in the Diner, Swordfish Trombone

Anonymous said...


Er, um...obviously, I concur with Anonymous above about the Band.

Wendy said...

I also agree about the Band, but I take Simels literally (although I know he really doesn't give a shit), so no live albums, either. Otherwise, "Stop Making Sense" would put the Talking Heads on this list for me. Any my Dead list would differ from Gummo's.

I'm probably the only person in the world who likes this one, but "Moondog Matinee", the Band's love song to their roots, is great, as far as I'm concerned.

Wendy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wendy said...

I also agree about the Band, but I take Simels literally (although I know he really doesn't give a shit), so no live albums, either. Otherwise, "Stop Making Sense" would put the Talking Heads on this list for me. Any my Dead list would differ from Gummo's.

I'm probably the only person in the world who likes this one, but "Moondog Matinee", the Band's love song to their roots, is great, as far as I'm concerned.

David said...

Just a few addenda: XTC: hell yes, but give me Drums and Wires, Black Sea, and Skylarking.
In re: Tom Petty--Full Moon Fever was technically a solo project w/some assistant from various Heartbreakers. As much I love them, and I do--all of their records save Damn the Torpedoes, contain filler and/or clinkers. I think that's one of the reasons their greatest hits collection was by far their biggest seller: all the crucial songs that had been sprinkled over five records were finally all in one place.

Anonymous said...

I'll sign off on the Kinks, but I'd place Something Else on the list of qualifying greats. Off the top of my head:

Ry Cooder (Paradise & Lunch, Into The Purple Valley, Chicken Skin Music)
Joe Jackson (Look Sharp!, I'm The Man, Beat Crazy)
R.E.M. (Murmur, Reckoning, Life's Rich Pageant)
X (Los Angeles, Wild Gift, Under The Big Black Sun)
Elton John (Tumbleweed Connection, Goodbye YBR, Madman)
Frank Zappa (Freak Out!, We're Only In It..., Weasels)
Nick Lowe (Jesus Of Cool, Labour Of Lust, The Convincer)

How about S&G? Too wimpy?

And how may ex-Beatles could qualify?

Anonymous said...

I'm probably the only person in the world who likes this one, but "Moondog Matinee", the Band's love song to their roots, is great, as far as I'm concerned.

I'm right there with you on that, dear... :)

-buckner (again)

Anonymous said...

The Kinks have the greatest run of consecutive brilliant studio albums ever, starting with Kontroversy and running through Face to Face, Something Else, Village Green, Arthur, Lola Vs. Powerman and ending with Muswell Hillbillies. 7 in all. Never been matched ever.

I'd also like to add Tonio K's Life in the Foodchain, Amerika & Romeo Unchained. (12 Tons of Monkeys is great also)

May I add these Richard Thompson's to your list:
Pour Down Like Silver, Across a Crowded Room, Amnesia, Mock Tudor & The Old Kit Bag.

X: Wild Gift, Under the Black Sun, More Fun in the New World & See How We Are.

Finally Peter Himmelman's Gematria, From Strength to Strength and Flown this Acid World.

Steve: this is one of the most fun lists you've put up in a long while. Stop me before I list again!


Anonymous said...

I just realize the Stones are barely mentioned, so here goes: Aftermath, Beggar's Banquet, Let It Bleed, Exiles on Main Street, Some Girls & Tattoo You.


steve simels said...

Anonymous said...
The Kinks have the greatest run of consecutive brilliant studio albums ever, starting with Kontroversy and running through Face to Face, Something Else, Village Green, Arthur, Lola Vs. Powerman and ending with Muswell Hillbillies. 7 in all. Never been matched ever.

Wow...that's a tough one. I think there are definitely two masterpieces in there -- FTF and SE -- and possibly Village Green. The rest -- from terrific to really good. IMHO.

Feral said...

I'd like to add a few. CCR's debut, along with Bayou Country and Comos' Factory.
Little Feat - Sailin' Shoes, Dixie Chicken, and Waiting for Columbus (honorable mention for Feat Don't Fail Me Now).
Stevie Ray Vaughn - Couldn't Stand the Weather, Texas Flood, and Sky is Crying.
Traffic - John Barleycorn Must Die, Low Spark of High Heeled Boys, Mr. Fantasy.
And a personal fave, Subdudes - their debut, Annunciation, Primitive Streak.

An alternate Who pick - the expanded re-release of Live at Leeds.

And totally out of time and genre (and quantity), but essential all the same; The Miles Davis Quintet - Walkin', Smokin' Steamin' and Relaxin'.

Unknown said...

rod stewart (amazed that nobody mentioned him yet)-
- never a dull moment
- every picture tells a story
- a nod is as good as a wink (faces). incredibly, the last two were released in the same year (1972).

lucinda williams
- self-titled
- sweet old world
- car wheels on a gravel road
- (a good case can be made for 'happy woman blues,' too)

gram parsons
- g.p.
- grievous angel
- the gilded palace of sin (flying burrito brothers)

- sorry ma forgot to take out the trash
- hootenanny
- let it be
- tim

steve simels said...

Replacements --

I'd vote for Let It Be, Tim and Pleased to Meet Me, actually.

David said...

I love the Mats, believe me, but every one of their albums has its share of throwaways and/or piss-takes. Don't get me wrong, I love "Gary's Got a Boner" as much as the next guy, but for me, it's hard to declare Hootenanny or Let it Be great through and through. Probably Tim came closest. Pleased to Meet Me is the most listenable, but at that point it was really Westerberg's show, not really a band effort.

Unknown said...

david- ah, but divine piss-takes were what made the mats the mats. that's why 'hootenanny' is my favorite of theirs, then 'sorry ma.'

speaking of piss-takes, another brilliant mess that completes another listomania hat trick is the clash's 'sandinista!', to go with 'the clash' (us or uk version) and 'london calling.'

and there's a good case to be made for tom waits. i'd go with 'rain dogs,' 'small change,' and the much-overlooked 'blue valentine' (my personal favorite).

Who Am Us Anyway? said...

When's the next bus: Good point re "Sandinista!" It is a mess but it is great, and that does make 3 for the Clash.

Anonymous said...

I like the lists, not much to add but some alternative interpretations:

On Elvis C, I would substitute Get Happy! for Armed Forces.

For R.E.M, let me echo mbowen with Murmur, Document & Automatic - with a soft spot in my heart for Reckoning & "Rockville"

I would love to put the Replacments in, but unfortunately I don't think Hootenanny or Pleased To Meet Me quite make it, up there with Let It Be or Tim - close...

Prince is also on the edge - Purple Rain & Sign 'O' the Times rank up there for me, with Dirty Mind almost making the cut.

But, I would suggest that the Ramones DO qualify: Ramones, Rocket to Russia & Road to Ruin.

And let me put in a hopeful, forward-looking vote for Neko Case, with two so far: Blacklisted & Fox Confessor Brings the Flood.

Unknown said...

As another posted, Laura Nyro; but the three are Eli and the 13th Confession; New York Tendaberry; Christmas and the Beads of Sweat.

Unknown said...

(slaps forehead)

John Martyn: Solid Air, Outside In, Bless the Weather

Nick Drake: Pink Moon, Five Leaves Left, Bryter Layter

Polar said...

I'd add the following:
REM (as others have done): 'Murmur", "Fables of the Reconstruction", "Document", "Out of Time"

The Guess Who: "Share the Land", "Artificial Paradise", "Road Food".

Can't understand the inclusion of Billy Corgan in this list, I'm afraid. I've never understood why the critics found him so fab. I always thought he lacked any distinction, vocally.

Sorry, Mr. Simels, but on the occasion of this list, I must interject a bit of nostalgia. In 1975, I remember you asking if the teenagers of that era would be listening to Jethro Tull 20 years later. It's 30 years later, and....."Benefit", "Aqualung", and "Heavy Horses" - and for me, if nobody else, "A Passion Play." Never could stand Nektar, however - the other band you named that day.