Music Mercredi: Rolling Stone's Greatest 11-20
With the help of our good friends at Megaupload (coded language), I got my hands on both The Sun Sessions by Elvis Presley and Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen’s breakthrough third record. Rolling Stoneranks them as two of the Top 20 greatest albums of all time, and I’d never heard either before in my life (though I’d, of course, heard ofthem). Before I cast judgment: numbers 11-20 of Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time include
The Sun Sessions, Elvis Presley
Kind of Blue, Miles Davis
Velvet Underground and Nico, The Velvet Underground
Abbey Road, The Beatles
Are You Experienced?, The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Blood on the Tracks, Bob Dylan
Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen
Astral Weeks, Van Morrison
Thriller, Michael Jackson
I think this batch of discs has even more bang for your buck than RS‘s Top 10. Quincy Jones has said he plays Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue “every day; it’s my orange juice,” and if you held a gun to my head, I’d have to pick it as my absolute favorite album of all time. (Fellow critic Greg Tate’s favorite is Bitches Brew, which says a lot.) The first album—yes, vinyl—I ever paid for out of my own money was Davis’s My Funny Valentine, and I spent teenage high school daze riding buses through the Bronx with Get Up with It and Jack Johnson on my Walkman. But discovering Kind of Blue in college… I could whistle almost every solo on the album from memory, let’s leave it at that.
Thriller could easily have won this week, naturally. I might tie Abbey Road with MJ, and Velvet Underground and Nico brings up the rear like Amber Rose. There’s nothing like The Beatles’ three-part harmonizing on “Sun King” and “Because.” And “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” drones on into the sunset something lovely approaching its eighth minute. For MJ, there’s nothing I can say about Thriller that I haven’t said before here. And though I admit to actually hearing Vanessa Paradis’s Lenny Kravitz-produced “I’m Waiting for the Man” before the Velvet Underground original, Maureen Tucker’s pounding drums are immeasurably hypnotic. “Femme Fatale” can’t be beat either, and “Heroin” is a favorite. “Sunday Morning”… the album deserves its spot. So does Nevermind, a record I loved from nearly the beginning (after I got over MTV ramming the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video down my throat in 1992).
On the other hand. I’m by no means an Elvis hater, not anymore anyway, but I couldn’t get behind The Sun Sessions at all. One day I’ll read a book or see a doc on its vast historical significance, but for now, meh. Blood on the Tracks almost lost this week, but “Meet Me in the Morning” (a Dylan blues) is one of the greatest songs I’ve ever heard in my life. Born to Run almost lost this week, but at least it had the title track going for it, and “She’s the One” was actually a nice surprise. If I was a white blue-collar muggle in the 70s, I guess The Boss would’ve spoken to me. And I don’t have the heart to give the thumbs down to Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks; it definitely doesn’t belong in the Top 20, but the moody album evokes a nice vibe, and the jazzy players play.
And yes: Jimi’s “Third Stone from the Sun,” off Are You Experienced?, stands as my favorite Hendrix song of all time. (“And you’ll never hear surf music again…”)