In any case, posting by moi will necessarily be sporadic for a few days.
But in my absence, here's a fun project for you all to contemplate:
The Post-Elvis Album(s) That Changed Your Life!!!
Self-explanatory, I think, so no arbitrary rules for a change. And yes, this time you're allowed to nominate something by the Beatles, for all sorts of obvious reasons.
Okay, here's my totally top of my head Top Eight, in no particular order:
8. The Loud Family -- Plants and Birds and Rocks and Things
When this came out in 1991, I thought it was the closest thing to the second coming of The White Album I'd ever heard, except it also took the collage/medley structure of side two of Abbey Road to a whole other level. The last genuinely psychedelic experience I've had under a pair of headphones, in any case, and for my money the best album of the 90s hands down. Best album title, too.
7. The Beatles -- Rubber Soul
A sort of concept album before Pepper -- the sort of concept being that it had a cohesive, almost chamber music/small band sonic signature and astoundingly grownup and creative songs. I thought it was the most breathtakingly beautiful music I'd ever heard at the time; that it was made by the same guys who'd been singing about holding your hand barely two years earlier was simply mind-boggling.
6. The Byrds -- Fifth Dimension
I'm not claiming this is the best of the Byrds five albums with their mostly original lineup, but it has a steely edge that I think was unprecedented in rock at the time; at their best, the songs here have the same riffy metallic brilliance as the similar things -- "She Said, She Said," "Dr. Robert," et al -- the Beatles were doing around the same time on Revolver. Plus: David Crosby's minimalist harmony vocals on the title song and "I Come and Stand at Every Door" are heartbreaking works of staggering genius, and I'm not kidding about that.
5. The Beach Boys -- Today
Actually, this one pre-dates Rubber Soul as far as being a sort of concept album -- the sort of concept being, again, that it had a cohesive, almost chamber music/small band sonic signature and astoundingly grownup and creative songs. But for sheer stem to stern imagination and inventiveness it's every bit as good. Actually, in some ways, it's even more audacious; the concluding Dennis Wilson sung ballad (above) is like Sinatra channeling Otis Redding or vice versa. Regardless of the fact that Mike Love is a dick, anybody who can listen to this stuff and conclude that the Beach Boys were white bread and/or fakes is seriously perverse of ears.
4. The Harder They Come (original soundtrack)
Apart from the fact that there isn't a weak track on the album (which was quite an accomplishment in 1973, believe me) this was your basic life changer because it was at once so utterly familiar (a mix of r&b, gospel, and rock) and alien (as heard and mutated by a culture that might as well have been on Mars as the Caribbean) at the same time. God knows how many people listened to it as obsessively as I did; fortunately, a lot of them went on to make music as a result.
3. Bruce Springsteen -- The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle
Okay, "Rosalita" has the open-hearted spirit and even some of the riffs of most of the great rock songs ever written up to that point. So how come I still can't pick out a specific influence or posit another band that sounds remotely like the E-Streeters here? Seriously -- if that song isn't a fricking miracle, I've never heard one. And don't even get me started on "Sandy."
2. The Who -- Sell Out
C'mon -- "I Can See For My Miles" isn't even the best track. That's how good this is.
1. The Replacements -- Let It Be
I really don't have the words to explain just how hard this album first hit me. Believe it or not, I had never even heard of these guys when I read a late 1984 piece about them in the Village Voice (by my old colleague and friend Glenn Kenny, currently doing business over at the sublime film blog Some Came Running). What he described sounded like the rock band of my dreams -- a bunch of smart, wise-ass funny, heartbreakingly honest bruised romantics with loud guitars, pop instincts and a touch of the poet -- and frankly I thought they sounded too good to be true. But I bought the album anyway, and from the minute I heard the low-fi twelve-string guitar/mandolin and Paul Westerberg's wounded ferret rasp of a voice on the opening "I Will Dare" I was moved to the bottom of my soul. By the time I got to "Unsatisfied," still the most gut-wrenching evocation of being precisely that in the history of popular music, I was warm Jell-O, and the concluding "Answering Machine" pretty much killed me. The rest of the album? Just moderately great, but overall the whole thing made everything else I was hearing on the radio sound like the work of artistic pygmies, and the fact that it was written and sung by guys who were a couple of generations younger than me struck me as both chastening and somehow inspirational. To this day I gotta say (in the words of Cameron Crowe) -- you still can't buy a better record.
Awrighty then -- what would your choices be?
[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: All-Time Coolest Aliens From Outer Space in a Feature Film -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, I'd take it as a personal and cushy job-protecting favor if you could see your way to going over there and leaving a comment.]