Friday, May 22, 2020

McQ's Best Of 1969 Vol 2 - Best Of The Best.

By almost any metric, a case can be made that 1969 was the greatest music year since the dawn of the rock era.

In Rolling Stone magazine's last top 500 albums of all-time critic/artist poll, a poll that spanned 60 years, 1969 releases made up almost 5% of the total (and 9% of the top 100).

Just three years ago,  millennial music site Pitchfork released their 200 best albums of the 1960s, and almost 30% of the albums (57/200) came from 1969.

Try to break out a numerical analysis of critical aggregator's all-time greats, and no matter how you weight or scale the numbers (trust me, I've tried), 1969 always comes out on top, handily beating the usual #2 and #3 finishers 1967 and 1971.

Bottomline, we're dealing with a monster music year here.

So now, with Nancy sharing her favorite songs from 1969 with you yesterday, it falls on me to give 1969's best albums their due today (while trying not to duplicate too many of the artists Nancy has already highlighted).

But before we begin, because in a year so big it was impossible to include every worthy album, a quick shout out to the six additional elite '69 recordings I feel belong with this rarified group but that neither Nancy or I included because they either aren't presently available on Spotify (Captain Beefheart's infamous Trout Mask Replica), their best songs were too long or too weird for these lead off mixes (Frank Zappa's Hot Rats, Isaac Hayes' Hot Buttered Soul, CAN's Monster Movie, Miles Davis's In A Silent Way), or I tried to include but just couldn't get to flow satisfactorily with the other numbers on this mix (Johnny Cash's At San Quentin).

And with that said, let's get on with it.  Here's the Spotify link. Enjoy!

Now, about those 1969 Albums and Songs:

1. I Want To Take You Higher - Sly & The Family Stone: A career high from one soul's most influential acts, Stand! wasn't the album that introduced Sly & The Family Stone's visionary, everyone-can-play multi-racial, scattershot style, but it was the album that perfected it. And nowhere on the record is that perfection more fun to bask in than on I Want To Take You Higher here, which also provided one of Woodstock's indelible moments, when Sly and the band used this song to enthusiastically rouse the exhausted, soaking-wet festival masses from their 3:30 am slumber.

2. Whole Lotta Love - Led Zeppelin: I'll never forget a quote from the intro for Led Zeppelin in the 1978 edition of the Rolling Stone Record Guide. Paraphrasing here, but it went something like this "In forming Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Page made two great discoveries: spaced-out hard rock drove barely prepubescent boys crazy; the '60s were over." Don't know how you sum up the impact of the band or this incendiary song from their "almost-a-greatest-hits-album-in-itself" Led Zeppelin II any better than that.

3. Bad Moon Rising - Creedence Clearwater Revival: In a year that saw many band's raising the bar for high quality prolificacy, no act raised that bar higher than Creedence Clearwater Revival. And while the band never had a number one song, they did have four reach #2 in1969 on the Billboard charts, including this ubiquitous, playfully ominous lead single from Green River, the second and darkest of their three albums they released in 1969.

4. 1969 - The Stooges: As much as I love the Velvet Underground, those mid-sixties garage singles, and Love's Seven And Seven Is, for me, it's here, in this opening salvo to the The Stooges' self-titled debut, that punk rock is born. Voted the 35th greatest guitar song of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine, it was a tough call picking 1969 over the even more highly regarded I Wanna Be Your Dog, but 1969 has always been the song that best embodies the brute John Cale-produced minimalism of the album for me.

5. Spinning Wheel - Blood, Sweat & Tears: 1968 first album Child Is The Father To The Man established the template. Sophomore effort, Blood, Sweat & Tears, with a significantly revamped lineup, brought the hits - none more memorable than this croony classic here.

6. Boredom - Procol Harum: One of 1969's most underrated albums, and arguably the best eclectic release of the year outside of Abbey Road, Procul Harum's minor prog-pop classic A Salty Dog feels more presciently connected to the indie-pop movement of this current century than just about any release of the 60s. Every time I listen, I hear twists and turns in these songs that suggest the likes of The Flaming Lips, Islands, Animal Collective, Mercury Rev, Death Cab For Cutie, and especially the Decemberists were listening right along with me. The band will always be first remembered for A Whiter Shade Of Pale, but this twee charmer of an album, perfectly represented by Boredom here, is in imho their actual crowning achievement.

7. Kick Out The Jams - MC5: Derided on all fronts and a focal point of many ugly censorship battles at the time of its original release, Mc5's 1969 debut Kick Out The Jams - recorded live in single, sweaty Halloween weekend in Detroit's Grande Ballroom - is now regarded as one its or any era's purest encapsulations of rock power at its rawest and most unfiltered, and has enduring influence on much of the hard-core punk and metal that has followed in its wake.

8. Something - The Beatles: My favorite cut from the last album The Beatles ever recorded (if one doesn't consider the entire Sun King medley as one song), Abby Road's Something also marked a first for the band.  It was the first and only time they went with a George Harrison-penned song as their lead single.

9. Dog Breath, In The Year Of The Plague - Frank Zappa: Another artist who had a monster 1969, Zappa released two fantastic albums in 1969.  The sprawling, chaos as organizing principal Uncle Meat with the Mothers Of Invention, and his first solo outing, the spectacularly jam-focused Hot Rats. This Uncle Meat track, possibly my all-time favorite of Zappa's zany work with the Mothers, stands in as a Best Of The Best representative for both albums, which are equally essential.

10. Volunteers - Jefferson Airplane: Fifty years removed, 1967's Surrealistic Pillow, armed with Somebody To Love and White Rabbit, is the album that has lingered most in the public conscious, but I've always felt the Airplane's 1969 effort Volunteers is actually the band's best, most consistent album, and I've always adored this adrenaline rush of a title track that closes the record.

11. 21st Century Schizoid Man - King Crimson: Is this epic, incendiary freak-out the song that launched progressive rock? Though acts like The Moody Blues, Soft Machine, Jethro Tull, Procul Harum, and The Mothers Of Invention had already started the shift towards incorporating jazz and classical textures into rock music, it was In The Court Of The Crimson King, King Crimson's legendary 1969 debut, that truly opened up the prog-rock floodgates. Now widely considered prog's second greatest album (behind only Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon), it was actually future Foreigner founder Ian McDonald, not guitarist/vocalist Greg Lake (later of ELP fame) or enduring band leader Robert Fripp, who wrote most of the music and crafted the album's rich symphonic textures through layers and layers of overdubs.

12. King Harvest (Has Surely Come) - The Band: Oh, what a tough time I had picking a song to represent the The Band's impossibly good eponymous second release, for my money, one of the most unique albums in the entire rock pantheon, the best album of 1969, and the greatest alt-country/Americana album ever recorded (yeah, I'm a fan). In the end, had to go with the album's closing, vocally weirded-out tale of early farm unification over its two most well known tracks Up On Cripple Creek and The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (but don't worry, we'll catch those tracks, as well as a few others, in a later mix).

13. Who Knows Where The Time Goes? - Fairport Convention: Amongst the most prolific acts in a year that set the gold standard for prolific acts, Fairport Convention released three landmark albums in 1969, but this breathtaking Sandy Denny number from Unhalfbrickingthe second, most Americanized, and most rocking of the Richard Thompson/Denny-led folk-rock pioneers three '69 efforts - is on another level entirely. My favorite song in their entire catalog. 

14. Cinnamon Girl - Neil Young: Probably repeating myself here, but along with Iggy Pop and Lou Reed, I've always considered Neil Young one of the most talented non-talents in rock. But whatever his virtuosic limitations, Neil has always found a way to push through his minimal chops and deliver emotionally stirring songs.  Rarely did he do this more captivatingly than on his second solo outing (and first with Crazy Horse) Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, and Cinnamon Girl in particular may be his minimalist masterwork, epitomized by that greatest one-note guitar solo in rock history that kicks in around the 2:06 mark. 

15. Pinball Wizard - The Who: Pete Townsend, on the other hand, I considered to be one of rock's genuine instrumental prodigies, not a flash lead guitarist, but arguably, along with Carlos Santana, the best rhythm guitarist rock has ever seen. And never was Townsend's rhythm guitar magic on clearer display than on this all-time great track from the band's ground-breaking rock-opera Tommy. Coolest rhythm guitar riff ever!

16. Fortunate Son - Creedence Clearwater Revival: Flipping the script from the apocalyptic negativity that infused near every moment of Green River, CCR's next outing, the even better Willy And The Poor Boys, was a joyous celebration of the undeterred resilience and positivity of America's working poor, even when that joy and resilience came packaged with a bit of fight and spite, as on this all-time classic put down of those birthed into better circumstances Fortunate Son here. God, is there a line in this song that doesn't work for our current president.

17. Space Oddity - David Bowie: One of these things here is not like the others.  This is my one exception letting album quality determine inclusion, because the truth is David Bowie may have owned the 70s, but man, it took him forever to get up to cruising speed.  After forming countless failed bands over the early 60s, Bowie released his second straight eponymous solo album in 1969, and like his first, it was a mostly unremarkable mix of half-baked psychedelic and prog-rock numbers. But buried amid the dreck were three numbers that pointed towards the era-defining artist Bowie would become. The lyrically pointed and insightful prog-suite Cygnet Committee, the fine closing anthem Memory Of A Free Festival, and of course, this 2001 inspired number, which sounded unlike anything else in 1969, and had the impeccable timing of being released as a single just five days before the launch of Apollo 11, which led to it being one of the biggest hits of the summer.

18. How Many More Times - Led Zeppelin: There are more popular songs from Led Zeppelin's game-changing debut, but How Many More Times has always summed up so much of the band for me - the bombast, the e-bow guitars, the band's blatant, unrelenting, uncompensated plagiarism of African-American greats, and first and foremost, how their almost comically misguided attempts to capture the essence of the blues launched a whole new, grandiose genre of music entirely

19. Son Of A Preacher Man - Dusty Springfield: An unchallenged part of the sacred rock and soul canon for decades now, Dusty In Memphis is widely regarded as one of the most important female works of the 1960s, and remains a regular in most top 100 all-time lists. I'm not quite as sold on the album as most, feeling that some lesser regarded works in her catalog like 1966s You Don't Have To Say You Love Me have actually aged better, but whatever my misgivings, I will never tire of hearing this song, which deserves every accolade it has ever received, and when Nancy surprised me by not selecting it for her mix, it was a no-brainer to include Son Of A Preacher Man here. 

20. Pale Blue Eyes - The Velvet Underground: On the flip-side, damn, has the Velvet's self-titled third album aged well. In one of the most abrupt about faces in rock's seventy years, the Velvet's ditched the room-clearing speed-freak madness and sonic nihilism of White Light/White Heat for something almost unsparingly delicate, soothing, compassionate, and bittersweet. The result was an album that now rates right there with Astral Weeks and Rubber Soul as one of the most timeless efforts of the decade. And nestled deep within a brilliant first side that contained nothing but extraordinary songs was this stunning reflection on romantic betrayal which many of the band's fans interpreted as a masked put down of original bassist John Cale, who Reed had recently kicked out of the band, but which Reed insists was actually an homage to his first true love Shelley Albin, who was married to another man at the time. 

21. You Can't Always Get What You Want - The Rolling Stones: Don't have anything to say on this classic Let It Bleed closer other than when times get tough for me, this is the song I usually turn to first. Not my favorite Stone's song (that would be Sympathy), but without question the one I hold most dear.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

McQ's Best Of 1969 Vol 1 - Nancy's Favorites!

Welcome back, music lovers, as we set forth once again on another expansive exploration of the best rock, pop, soul, blues, folk and jazz of a year long passed.

But here's the thing...

1969 the music year was so big, so significant, and so vast in quality recordings, trying to come to grips with the full depths of its greatness, its innovations, and the monstrous impact it had on the music that followed is nearly impossible.

But after hearing this exceptional collection of Nancy's personal '69 favorites, I knew this was the place to start.

So let's get to it. Here's the Spotify link!

And for those of you who might want to catch up on Nancy's previous compilations first, here ya go!

Nancy's Favorites 2018
Nancy's Favorites 2017
Nancy's Favorites 2016
Nancy's Favorites 2015
Nancy's Favorites 2014
Nancy's Favorites 2013
Nancy's Favorites 2012
Nancy's Favorites 2011
Nancy's Favorites 2010
Nancy's Favorites 2009
Nancy's Favorites 2008
Nancy's Favorites 2007
Nancy's Favorites 1998
Nancy's Favorites 1977
Nancy's Favorites 1967
Nancy's Favorites 1966

Now, About Nancy's Favorite 1969 Songs:

1. Gimme Shelter - The Rolling Stones: Leave it to Nancy, purely on instinct, to kick off her 1969 mix collection with the classic "dark days ahead" Let It Bleed opener that now rates as 1969's very best song on critical aggregator

2. Hitchcock Railway - Joe Cocker: Man, what a year Joe Cocker had in 1969. After toiling in English-pub obscurity for most of the decade, the spasmodic, blue-eyed-soul phenom simply crushed it in '69, with a breakthrough Woodstock performance, several big singles, and two outstanding gold albums - debut With A Little Help From My Friends, and his even better self-titled follow up from which this cover of revered MGs'/Blues Brothers' bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn's Hitchcock Railway is taken. One of the strongest deep cuts in Cocker's catalog, losing this song to Nancy, with which I had hoped to open the final 1969 mix Croony, Croon, Croon, hurt... a lot. 

3. Try (Just A Little Bit Harder) - Janis Joplin: Following her departure from Big Brother & The Holding Company, and inspired by the maximal, modernized, brass-heavy sounds of newcomers Chicago Transit Authority and Blood, Sweat & Tears, Janis was eager to shift away from her psychedelic beginnings and pursue a similar blues & soul direction. And while the resulting 1969 album, I've Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama!, may be the weakest of her proper discography, it's still a blast of a record, highlighted by this rousing belter, possibly the best straight soul recording of Joplin's career.

4. Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is - Chicago: Speaking of Chicago, the biggest surprise in revisiting their 1969 self-titled debut is just what an exuberantly jammy outfit they were at the start of their career.  Even on tracks that screamed "single potential" like Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is, they couldn't resist the urge to open the song with a two-minute piano solo. That piano solo would be cut a year later, when, having come to their commercial senses, Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is was re-released as a single with an abbreviated, radio-friendly TRT to piggy back on the success of 25 or 6 to 4 and Make Me Smile from Chicago II

5. Here Comes The Sun - The Beatles: Not to get to punny, but even though he's bringing up the rear on Abbey's iconic cover photo, I've always felt Abbey Road is the Beatles album on which George Harrison shines brightest. So glad Nancy chose to go with one of his contributions here.

6. Evil Ways - Santana: With the band fresh off an amazing, out-of-nowhere Woodstock performance, record industry sorts expected latin-rocker Santana's full-length debut to be one of the major releases of 1969, and over time, it would proved to be exactly that, but not initially. Lead single Jingo landed with a thud, and early reviews of the album from the era's dominant taste-makers Rolling Stone and Village Voice were far from complimentary, likening the band's music to a meaningless, methadrine high. Finally, Evil Ways was released as the album's second single on New Years Day, 1970, hit #9 on the US charts soon after, and things began to take hold. And those critics, they've come around as well. Last time Rolling Stone did a top 500 albums of all-time poll, this debut came in at 150.

7. Feelin' Alright - Joe Cocker: Just one question.  Other than Aretha's outright theft of Otis Redding's Respect, has there ever been a better cover song in rock/soul history than this irresistible take on Traffic's Feelin' Alright that opens Joe Cocker's all-star-assisted debut With A Little Help From My Friends

8. Suspicious Minds - Elvis Presley: The last number one single of Elvis's career concluded a series of late 60s moves, most spearheaded by Presley himself, to break out of his dismal seven-year stretch focused exclusively on film and soundtrack work that had led to steadily diminishing returns. Inspired by a successful 1968 Christmas television special, Presley vowed to never again record or perform a song he didn't believe in, and set back to making albums proper.  This single, and the album From Elvis In Memphis, was the result, and for brief while, it reignited Presley's career. Oddly, Suspicious Minds was left off the original pressing of Memphis, even though the songs were all recorded in the same sessions, but it has been included on every pressing since 1998. 

9. Suite: Judy Blue Eyes - Crosby, Stills, & Nash: Crosby, Stills & Nash's self-titled debut was part of a trifecta of albums - along with the Byrd's Sweetheart Of The Radio and The Band's Music From The Big Pink - that were most instrumental in steering the music zeitgeist away from the psychedelic blues-based rock that dominated the previous few years and towards the singer-songwriter/country-rock wave to come. Fittingly, Stephen Stills is the only band member holding an instrument on the cover, as while all members contributed as vocalists and songwriters, 90% of the album's instrumentation - every note of lead guitar, organ, bass, over half the album's drumming, as well as acoustic guitar on his own songs - was played by Stills. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that on an album full of highlights, the biggest standout was this timeless Stills' ode to British folk-singer Judy Collins (who, we will learn, wasn't as appreciated by another contributor to this mix).

10. Sugar Sugar - The Archies: And now for something completely different, a stretch of Saturday morning cartoon nostalgia for all those Gen Xers out there. First up, this indelible ditty from Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead and the gang, which debuted on the cartoon series and was then featured on "the band's" second full-length Everything's Archie.

11. I Want You Back - The Jackson 5: Keeping that Saturday morning cartoon streak going, Nancy hits us next with The Jackson 5's very first (and maybe their very best) number one song, the only single released from their clumsily titled debut Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5

12. It's Your Thing - The Isley Brothers: Briefly moving on from Motown now, both literally and figuratively, with the Isley Brother's iconic put-down of Motown head Berry Gordy's controlling ways, recorded just months after Gordy released them from their Motown contract. Gordy, incensed over the success of the song, threatened to sue the band and force them back to Motown, but eventually backed off. Adding insult to insult, It's Your Thing would go on to win the 1970 Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by A Duo or Group, beating out Motown's Gladys Knight and The Pip's Friendship Train in the process.

13. Tracks Of My Tears - Aretha Franklin: After a furious 1968 that saw Aretha deliver two more R&B standards in albums Lady Soul and Aretha Now, Ms. Franklin choose to take it a easier in 1969, pursuing a jazzier direction and sticking exclusively to covers on her lone studio release that year, Soul '69. The results though, remained fantastic, as epitomized by her cover of the Smokey Robinson/Miracles charmer here.

14. I Can't Get Next To You - The Temptations: After Issac Hayes and Sly And The Family Stone, no band was more important to the evolution of funk and soul in 1969 than The Temptations, who, driven by visionary band leader Otis Williams and the exceptional songwriting talents of Norman Whitfield, leapt ahead of the rest of the Motown stable by aggressively seeking to stay with the times. This knockout track from their second full-length foray into psychedelic soul, Puzzle People, is the first tune we'll be hearing from their rich body of 1969 work, but hardly the last.

15. Everyday People - Sly & The Family Stone: Though not as funky as most of the band's material, this beloved (and yes, Saturday-morning-cartoon referencing) call for social unity from the band's scattershot soul masterpiece Stand! was the their first single to top the US Soul and overall Billboard Charts.  Surprisingly, given Everyday People's more pop nature, it was the very first Sly & The Family Stone recording where Larry Graham employed his legendary "slap bass" technique, an innovation that would quickly become one of funk's defining instrumental trademarks. 

16. Someday We'll Be Together - The Supremes: Though this tune from the Supreme's final album Cream Of The Crop was the diva posse's last number one single, it was originally intended and recorded for Ms. Ross' first solo outing, with neither Mary Wilson or Cindy Birdsong contributing to the track. But upon completion, Berry Gordy reversed his thinking, felt it fit better with the Supremes, and added it back into the Cream Of The Crop track list. It would go on to become Ross's go-to live song whenever she want to cap a moment of stage banter on an issue of social importance.

17. The Thrill Is Gone - B.B. King: Another greatest cover of all time, B.B. King's version of the 1951 Roy Hawkins/Rick Darnell number from his magnificent 1969 album Completely Well might be the best known blues song in the world today.  

18. Time Has Told Me - Nick Drake: Here we have the opening notes in what would become one of the most singular discographies in British folk. But forging that singularity didn't come easy. Time Has Told Me was recorded, as was the rest of Nick Drake's remarkable, melancholic debut Five Leaves Left, in haphazard fashion, with Drake, college friend/arranger Robert Kirby, and manager/producer Joe Boyd ditching college lectures and scrambling to London to steal recording time at Sound Techniques studio whenever Fairport Convention (who were friends with Drake and provided most of the instrumentation on Five Leaves Left, along with fellow folk-rockers Pentangle) wrapped their Unhalfbricking sessions early.

19. Many Rivers To Cross - Jimmy Cliff: What a song. But unbeknownst to many, the inspiration for this inspirational from Jimmy's self-titled debut (released in the states as Wonderful World, Beautiful People) came not from any sense of social injustice, but from the frustration Cliff felt failing to break through to an international audience after having relocated to the UK Jimi Hendrix-style several years prior while still in his teens.

20. In The Ghetto - Elvis Presley: With Suspicious Minds set aside to be released four months later as a standalone summer single, it was Presley's cover of this empathetic Mac Davis composition that was actually From Elvis In Memphis' biggest hit, peaking at #3 in the states, but landing the #1 slot in several other countries around the world. 

21. Girl From The North Country - Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash: To open his first foray into full-blown country Nashville Skyline (assuming one considers 67's John Wesley Harding more of a folk/roots hybrid), Dylan repurposed one of his earliest acoustic classics and enlisted the help of one of his biggest fans to give the song a proper country sheen. But taken in either form, this version or the Freewheelin' original, Girl From The North Country remains one of Dylan's most enduring and heart-rending ballads.   

22. Both Sides Now - Joni Mitchell: Though Both Sides Now had put her on the map as an industry songwriter, Joni Mitchell was in no way a fan of Judy Collin's original harpsichord-saturated '67 recording. So Ms. Mitchell decided to rerecord the song herself, and make it the thematic centerpiece of her second solo release Clouds.  The album, a much more mature effort than her debut, was almost a one-woman show. Mitchell produced the record, painted the cover, and played all keys and acoustic guitar in addition to her songwriting and vocal duties. Only Stephen Stills (who ironically would score that big hit of his own eight months later celebrating Collins) assisted, providing complementary instrumental support.

23. Sweet Release - Boz Scaggs: This touching celebration of the redemptive power of music from Scagg's self-titled sophomore effort might never have come into existence were it not for Scagg's friendly relationship with his next door neighbor at the time, Rolling Stone magazine co-founder Jann Wenner.  Having recently left the Steve Miller Band after a two year stint, Scaggs was looking to restart his solo career, and had been sporadically sharing new demo material with Wenner for feedback. On a whim, while on an east coast fund-raising trip for Rolling Stone, Wenner handed a copy of Boz's demo to Atlanic's Jerry Wexler, which soon triggered a tangled web of influences and inter-relationships. Wexler tabbed Wenner himself to produce Scagg's album, which then led to Wenner issuing Boz Rolling Stone press passes so Boz could sneak into the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and get comfortable with that studio's house band, which Wenner though Boz should use and also just happened to include Duane Allman, who had recently returned to the Studio for a brief stint while awaiting the release of his own band's debut, which was being handled, of course, by Atlantic's Jerry Wexler. Unfortunately, after all that, the album failed to find an audience at the time of its release, lost in the shuffle amidst so many brilliant Americana albums in circulation at the time. But it has grown in stature over the years, and is now viewed as a minor classic, sporting several songs like Sweet Release here that have become a bedrock of Scagg's touring repertoire. The moral of the story, folks: be a good neighbor... you never know when it could pay you back tenfold down the line. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

McQ's Favorite Albums Of 2019

Working a few more titles into the mix here mid April - biggest new addition is FKA Twigs - MAGDELENE - one of the most fascinating albums of 2019 from a production standpoint, black midi's Schalgenheim and Bill Callahan's Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest also well worth checking out if aggressive art-rock or very spare, warm lyrically driven folk are in you wheelhouse.


1. Purple Mountains
2. Ghosteen - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
3. Dogrel - Fontaines D.C.
4. CALIGULA - Lingua Ignota

5. Crushing - Julia Jacklin
6. Designer - Aldous Harding
7. U.F.O.F. - Big Thief
9. Western Stars - Bruce Springsteen
10. KIWANUKA - Michael Kiwanuka
11. Grey Area - Little Simz
12. Titanic Rising - Weyes Blood
13. Remind Me Tomorrow - Sharon Van Etten
14. Norman Fucking Rockwell - Lana Del Rey

15. Punk - Chai
16. Psychodrama - Dave
17. Father Of The Bride - Vampire Weekend
18. Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest - Bill Callahan
19. Schlagenheim - black midi
20. Legacy! Legacy! - Jamila Woods
21. I Need A New War - Craig Finn
22. Bandana - Freddie Gibbs & Madlib
23. All Mirrors - Angel Olsen
24. Giant Of All Sizes - Elbow
25. I Am Easy To Find - The National
26. Anima - Thom Yorke
27. Fear Inoculum - TOOL

28. IGOR - Tyler, The Creator
29. i, i - Bon Iver
30. Reward - Cate Le Bon

Last Updated 04.18.2020

Monday, November 25, 2019

Weekly Listenings - 11/18 - 11/24/2019

So plowed through a bunch of 2019 and 1969 titles this week, with a few other random things.

Here's what we've got...

1st Listens:

Elbow - Giants Of All Sizes (2019): Front half of album has been getting most of the buzz I really found myself getting pulled in on the back third starting with ballad My Troubles. Feels like there will be a lot to unpack in future listens, liked it on first pass, but doesn't sound like it will quite reach Seldom Seen Kid/Build A Rocket Boys territory.

Scott Walker - Scott 3 (1969): Already pushed through six listens on Scott 4 this year as well, some nice moments here but on first impression, not nearly as good as 4 or 1967's 1.

Soft Machine - Volume 2 (1969): Not the jazz-rock, Canterbury Scene masterpiece that would  follow (Third), but the template for Third is their in much abbreviated, punchier form. Looking forward to future listens on this one.

Spooky Tooth - Spooky Two (1969): Like Spirit's 12 Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus, a heavy psychedlia/early prog guilty pleasure classic.  Revisiting this one three times for '69 collection after having heard it many times in 20s.  Side one closer Evil Woman remains one of the best forgotten songs of the 1960s.

Girl Band - The Talkies (2019): Had same reaction to this one as I did on first pass through their last effort - utterly unlistenable.  But I grew to really enjoy that last effort on multiple listens after growing accustomed to the brutal lo-fi mix.  Hoping same happens here.

The Byrds - The Ballad Of Easy Rider (1969): First of two 1969 Byrd's efforts I'll be checking out for 1969 retrospective - decent country rock fare in the vein of the day, nothing spectacular, though a nice early cover of Jesus Is Just Alright that set the sonic/vocal template for the Doobie Brothers hit version a few years later.

Floating Points - Crush (2019): First impression, solid, but no where near the standout awesomeness of Elaenia.

Buffy Sainte-Marie - Illumination (1969): One of my favorite first listens of week, really trippy late 60's folk from the indigenous Canadian that feels way ahead of its time in it's incorporation of electronic elements. Can't wait to loop back around to this one.

Leo Kottke - 6 & 12 String Guitar (1969): Kottke's all instrumental debut.  Nice stuff, easy to listen to, supposedly in many's mind, his best.  No one track that knocked me out on first listen though.

Kevin Ayers - Joy Of Toy (1969): Solo debut of ex-Soft Machine Ayers.  Odd and relaxed, didn't care for first third at all on first pass, but back two-thirds of album started catching my ear.

The Jackson 5 - Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5 (1969): Their Motown debut, typical mix-bag full-length Motown release, R&B/Pop masterpieces like I Want You Back nestled up against crassly commercial covers.

Janis Joplin - I Got Dem 'Ol Kozmic Blues (1969): One of the lowest rated of Joplin's original releases during her lifetime, but on first listen to this one, I really liked it, especially opener Try and late album cut Little Girl Blue.

Caetano Veloso (1969): Veloso self-titled third album, much of which was written/recorded will a political prisoner of Brazil's dictatorial regime of the time. Uneven, but some Tropicalia classics on this one like opener Irene.

2nd Listens:

Skip Spence - Oar (1969): Still not grasping the cult appeal of this wacked-out psychedelic country-rock effort from Jefferson Airplane / Moby Grape ex Spence recorded after his mental state had seriously started to decline.  Kind reminds of Big Stars Sister Lovers, another album vastly overrated because of the legend of the artists fragile mental state at the time of its creation.  Still feels Mild Recommend at best to me.

Joe Cocker (1969): Joe's self-titled sophomore outing.  Like this one even better than With A Little Help From My Friends, his '69 debut. All covers, but the versions of Delta Lady and Hitchcock Railway are to die for, and a vastly more listenable version of Cohen's Bird On A Wire than Cohen himself record that year.

Tool - Fear Innoculum (2019): Tool is one of those ultimate Euraka bands where things can take a long time to sink in.  On a surface level, I'm enjoying it and the mellower overall vibe, but so far I'm not hearing any song that simply "pops" like the best efforts on their greatest albums - sense is this will ultimately emerge as a very solid but never spectacular effort.

The National - I Am Easy To Find (2019): Surprised how little is hitting me on this outing from one of my favorite acts of last fifteen years.  Still early, another Eureka band, but verdict to this point is their weakest effort since before 2005's Alligator.

3rd Listens:

Leonard Cohen - Songs From A Room (1969): Decent, but instrumentally spare at times to the point to tedium, a fan favorite, but so far not one of mine.

Big Thief - U.F.O.F.: Glad I've still got a few listens to go on this one. Not sure I like this one that's sure to land high in the year end polls as much as previous effort Capacity, but it's a definite grower.

4th Listens:

The Kinks - Arthur (1969): With one follow-up listen to go after hearing this one plenty in my teens, always been one of my least favorite Kinks albums of the 60s and that opinion remains unchanged, although not a bad album by any stretch - any album that boasts the likes of Victoria, Australia, and Shangri-La is already entering Solid Rec territory no matter what else surrounds it. And it is a clear stylistic direction changer for the early 70s albums that would follow.

Little Simz - Grey Area (2019): This JAY-Z supported grime artist's sophomore outing is easily one of the best hip-hop albums I've heard this year. With it's swaggering one-two punch of Offence and Boss leading into the killer smooth Selfish, Grey Area delivers one of the best opening 10 minutes stretches of any 2019 album in any genre.

Final Listens:

Sly & The Family Stone - Stand! (1969): An unassailable classic, arguably the most influential soul/R&B album of the entire decade, defined the direction of much funk and soul for the next half decade to come. In so many years, this would be the easy choice for best album of the year; unfortunately, coming out as it did in 1969, it's questionable whether it belongs in the top ten.

Jefferson Airplane - Volunteers (1969): Love this one as well.  Surrealistic Pillow has the hits, but front to back, I've always felt this is the Airplane's most consistent and interesting album.

Aldous Harding - Designer (2019): Another winner to close this week's wrap-up out.  One of five fantastic 2019 female singer-songwriter albums - along with the aforementioned U.F.O.F, Julia Jacklin's Crushing, Sharon Van Eten's Remind Me Tomorrow, and Weyes Blood's Titanic that will dominate the year end polls (at least outside the states). This one, along with Crushing, is my personal fav of the bunch, really quirky, but a great first half, and a couple songs that enter into exalted Nick Drake territory.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

McQ's Best Of 1998 Mix Collection

And here it is, the complete McQ's Best Of 1998 mix collection.  Click on the mix names for the full write-ups and various links, or just listen to everything here on this page.

And remember, you can always follow McQ & Nancy on Spotify and access all their mixes directly at David Francis McQuillen.

And now, McQ's mix of his favorite cuts from his favorite albums of 1998.

Two of 1998's era-defining sounds, Trip-Hop and Big Beat Electronica, get their due here. Includes killer tracks from the likes of Fatboy Slim, Massive Attack, Propeller Heads, Madonna, Air, Amon Tobin, Rae & Christian, UNKLE, Morcheeba, and several more.

Stoner Rock, Grunge, Emo, Alt-Metal, Hardcore Punk, and most of 1998's best in-your-face guitar rock are teed up on this hard rockin' mix highlighting the years best efforts from Monster Magnet, Local H, Sunny Day Real Estate, Queens Of The Stoneage, Hole, Turbonegro, Pearl Jam, System Of A Down, Jon Spencer's Blues Explosion, Marilyn Manson and several others.

Here we focus on the fantastic college-oriented alt-rock and emerging indie that would form the inspirational foundation of much of the best music of the 2000s. Includes tracks from Eels, Neutral Milk Hotel, Mercury Rev, Sonic Youth, Pulp, Super Furry Animals, Los Planetas, Sparklehorse and several more.

1998 was a monster year for singles.  Here we zero in on the R&B and Disco side of that mainstream single equation, with listens to numbers from Cher, Britany Spears, Aretha Franklin, -M-,Lauryn Hill, Brandy, Monica, Spearmint, Maxwell, Miss Kittin, and many, many more.

And now, the rock and punk-pop side of that mainstream (mostly) singles explosion, with artists like Sloan, Liz Phair, Barenaked Ladies, The Offspring, Less Than Jake, Harvey Danger, Cake, Ash, Fuel, Everlast, Stereophonics, and Catatonia all making contributions.

From the merciless lyrical edge of Black Box Recorder to the life affirming exuberance of Nick Lowe, and twenty or so other flavors in between, we take a listen to many of 1998's finest singer-songwriter efforts on Volume 7.

1998 was an incredibly year for hip hop and it's emerging rap rock hybrid, and much of 1998's best from both genre's is profiled here, including tracks from Outkast, Juvenile, Big Pun, Kid Rock, The Beastie Boys, JAY-Z, Gang Starr, Black Star, DMX, Devin The Dude, and several more!

1998's best Post-rock, IDM, international music and any other concoction where lyrics were only a small part of the musical equation are highlighted here.  Includes efforts from The Dirty Three, Tortoise, Gastr Del Sol, Boards Of Canada, Manu Chao, Calexico, Herbert, Plastikman, Rachid Taha, Alain Bashung, The Beta Band, and several more. 

Nancy knocked it out of the park with her 1998 selections.  She's still tweaking the order, but the songs were to much fun to not post a preliminary version. Enjoy! 

Volume 11 - The Next 100

The next 100 great 1998 songs I was considering for this collection but that just missed the cut are presented here in no particular order.

McQ's Best Of 1998 Vol 10 - Nancy's Favorites!

Okay friends, so this may not be the final version of this mix - Nancy is still noodling with the order - but her selections are so much fun, I didn't want to wait on her any longer, so we're gonna post this version of Nancy's mix now, and if she ever gets around to polishing the sequencing down the line, so be it.

Until then, enjoy!

Here's the Spotify Link!

About The Artists/Albums/Songs Represented On Nancy's Mix:

1. California Stars - Wilco: Nancy kicks off her 1998 mix with this wonderful Wilco contribution to the first edition of the Woody Guthrie lyric restoration project Mermaid Avenue.

2. Ciencia Fiction - Los Planetas: We've already featured songs from Spain's Los Planetas' Una Semana En El Motor De Un Autobus on our Early Indie / Aging Alts and Words Be Damned mixes, but Nancy definitely grabbed the album's finest track for her mix here with the so R.E.M.-ish Ciencia Fiction.

3. Perfect - Smashing Pumpkins: The spirit of the Smashing Pumpkin's '96 smash 1979 is almost "perfectly" resuscitated in the best song from 1998's Adore.

4. Iris - The Goo Goo Dolls: Originally conceived for/released as part of the soundtrack for City Of Angels, the 1998 Nicolas Cage/Meg Ryan remake of Wim Wenders' Wings Of Desire, Iris became the biggest smash of the Buffalo, New York hitmakers career, not to mention one of the biggest hits of the 90s overall, topping the Billboard radio airplay charts for a record breaking eighteen straight weeks. Later also included on the band's mainstream-oriented sixth full-length, 1998's Dizzy Up The Girl, Iris - along with fellow hits Slide, Broadway, and Black Balloonhelped power the album to triple platinum sales. 

5. Last Stop: This Town - Eels: The second song in our 1998 mix collection to be inspired by first hand paranormal experiences (the other being Neutral Milk Hotel's Ghost), and also the song that inspired Electro-Shock Blues' cover,  Eel's frontman Mark Oliver Everett wrote the number immediately after returning home to his Echo Lake apartment complex after his sister's funeral in Hawaii. Almost as soon as he had exited his taxi from the airport, Everett was approached by his landlord who confided in him that she regularly saw apparitions, and with no knowledge of where Everett had been told him that while he was away, the spirit of a young woman had entered his apartment.  To allay his fears and help himself get to sleep that night, Everett turned to thoughts of his sister stopping by for a final friendly goodbye, and imaged the two of them taking flight over the city for one last "joyride" before she started her journey into the afterlife.

6. Lullaby - Shawn Mullins: Put that proverbial gun to Nancy's head, and I think she'd be force to admit this Shawn Mullins' guilty pleasure is her favorite song on this mix. The sad tale of an aging, forgotten, drug-addicted Hollywood socialite from his fourth studio album Soul's Core, Lullaby was the biggest hit of Georgia-native Mullins' career.

7. Closing Time - Semisonic: The biggest hit ever for Minnesota rock trio Semisonic, Closing Time is typically interpreted as a straight forward, last call pick-up number, but drummer Jacob Slichter has indicated songwriter Dan Wilson actually wrote the song as a metaphor for his pending fatherhood when he penned the fan favorite for their second studio release Feeling Strangely Fine.

8. Crush - Jennifer Paige: Another of Nancy's favorite guilty pleasures of 1998 from another Georgia-born singer, Crush, which first appeared on Paige's eponymous debut, was the biggest hit of the her still active career, and has been covered many times since its 1998 release, including a short, humorous usage in a Season 2 episode of Glee.

9. Polyester Bride - Liz Hair: One of three updated cuts on Whitechocolatespaceegg that originally appeared in 1991 on Phair's self-produced Girly-Sound cassettes, Polyester Bride stands today as Whitechoolatespaceegg's most frequently played song. 

10. My Favorite Mistake - Sheryl Crow: A perfect selection for Nancy, as My Favorite Mistake, the lead single from Sheryl Crow's third full-length The Globe Sessions isn't just a nifty Stones-styled rocker, but widely interpretted to be a gentle putdown of another artist Nancy loves, Crow romantic ex Eric Clapton.

11. Joy - Lucinda Williams: First up amongst the three songs Nancy has chosen from Lucinda Williams Pazz And Jop topping Car Wheels On A Gravel Road, the album's feistiest, funniest, and maybe best song, the inimitable Joy. 

12. You Get What You Give - New Radicals: The debut single from Los Angeles-based alternative rockers New Radicals' only album Maybe You've Been Brainwashed presently rates very high on most best songs of 1998 lists, due in large part to the song's final verse, in which band leader/songwriter Gregg Alexander filled the first half with a litany of urgent political issues and the second half with a mean-spirited dis of several other popular musicians of the day as a sociological experiment to see which half of the verse would rivet the music press's attention. Sadly, we can all guess the answer, and unsurprisingly, Alexander and his bandmate/lifelong songwriting partner, former All In The Family child actress Danielle Brisebois, soon became so disenchanted with the press junction part of the process they chose to give up the touring/band-fronting life altogether, deciding instead to focus the rest of their successful, still ongoing careers on producing and writing for others from behind the scenes, where they could be free of the nonsense.

13. Love Is Better Than A Warm Trombone - Gomez:  The loose, crunchy Love Is Better Than A Warm Trombone is the first of two songs Nancy has selected from Gomez's 1998 Mercury Prize-winning debut Bring It On.

14. Special - Garbage: Every year, there's one song Nancy whisks away from me for her annual mix that hurts the most, and for this 1998 collection, it was definitely this track here from Garbage's Version 2.0. 90s power-pop just doesn't get any better (or should we say "special") than Special - especially love the call back to The Pretenders' Talk Of The Town towards the end. 

15. The Way - Fastball: Voted by VH1 as one of the 100 best songs of the 90s, this hit from the Texas-based alt-rock act's second album All The Pain Money Can Buy took a ripped-from-the-headlines approach in mythologizing what might have happened to senile elderly couple Lela and Raymond Howard in the two week gap after they mysteriously drove away from their Texas home before being found crashed dead in a Hot Springs, Arkansas ravine. 

16. Fly Away - Lenny Kravitz: One of Lenny Kravitz's most popular songs, Fly Away almost didn't make his fifth full-length release 5. According to Kravitz, the completed album had already been turned into his label when he came up with the song one day while shopping for/goofing around on potential new guitars. He recorded a quick demo, sent it to his reluctant label, and after hearing the demo, the label agreed finishing of 5 should be delayed to add the track. 

17. The Rockafeller Skank - Fatboy Slim: And now, The Rockefeller Skank from Fatboy Slim's big beat smash You've Come A Long Way, Baby!, which presently rates as the #2 song of 1998 according to aggregator

18. Hand In Your Head - Money Mark: Given that Nancy has never been a major hip hop fan, the biggest surprise on this mix has to be her selection of not just one but two tracks from Beastie's Boys producer/touring keyboardist Mark Ramos Nishita's (aka Money Mark) second solo outing Push The Button. But as far as that goes, she's definitely picked two great songs, starting with the album's funkiest track, the "super-hits-of-the-seventies-styled" Hand In Your Head here. 

19. Metal Firecracker - Lucinda Williams: For Nancy's second selection from Car Wheels On A Gravel Road, one of the simplest and most poignant break-up songs of the last twenty-five years. 

20. Here Comes The Breeze - Gomez: Nancy's second selection from Gomez's debut Bring It On highlights the blues-rock act's folkier side and talent for instinctively ragged Band-like group harmonies.

21. Sail Away - David Gray: A tribute to how popular David Gray's White Ladder was in the early 2000s (and also how slowly but steadily it caught on) this fourth and final single from the record was released a full three years after White Ladder first hit the shelves. 

22. Tomorrow Will Be Like Today - Money Mark: The spirit of Get Happy-era Elvis Costello courses through every second of this wonderful pop number from Money Mark's Push The Button.

23. Right In Time - Lucinda Williams: One last number from Car Wheels On A Gravel Road, here the album's provocatively ambiguous opener (What exactly is it that kindles the song's sense of ecstasy? There are many justified interpretations) Right In Time.

24. Sleep The Clock Around - Belle & Sebastian: With their fanbase growing exponentially following the indie-breakout of 1996's If Your Feeling Sinister, Belle & Sebastian band leader Stuart Murdoch did a generous thing, making room for his fellow bandmates to shine on third full-length The Boy With The Arab Strap, and both guitarist Stuart Jackson and cellist Isobel Campbell took advantage. Case in point, this fan favorite duet between Murdoch and Campbell here anchored around the conceit of slowly growing into one's own skin.

25. 3 Speed - Eels: Another song from Electro-Shock Blues about Mark Oliver Everett's sister Elizabeth, this time capturing a sense of the fleeting joy of her idyllic suburban childhood before her tragedy began to unfold, but also laced with a hint that the inner turmoil that ultimately cost her her life was present from the very start.

26. Say Hello, Wave Goodbye - David Gray: Nancy and have been together for twenty-six magnificent years now, and it's quite possible the two albums I've heard her listen to the most over that quarter-decade span are David Gray's White Ladder and Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, so it's only fitting that her mix, and our 1998 collection as a whole, ends with a song that magically combines the power of both.