“Combat Rock is far from the Clash’s best album. Yet Straight To Hell may well be their best single song, working an oddly open groove to make room for a gush of Joe Strummer passion and consciousness that manages to cover all manner of unstable ground from British Colonialism to American interventionism to junkiedom to everything else. ‘Could be anywhere – any frontier – any hemisphere’ being a key line, speaking to the universality the (r)evolution that the Clash were always propounding, though not always so eloquently as here. Want to get to the heart of 99-percent of what’s wrong with the planet? Start with everybody who’s been just shoved aside by history and its dubious intentions. We need to be needed. All of us. Every frontier. Every hemisphere. Else it’s straight to hell. All of us. The only band that mattered maybe the last time they mattered.” (Philip Random)
“To be clear, the Jesus Christ Superstar album to have is the first one, the Original London Cast recording featuring the likes of Ian Gillan (JC), Murray Head (Judas) and Yvonne Elliman (Mary M) in the vocal department and as hot a band as ever jammed themselves into an orchestra pit. Because it wasn’t just a gimmick. It was 1970 and, in the wake of The Who’s Tommy, it was official, the big deal Rock Opera was in. And what bigger deal could there be than Jesus Christ, the Man, maybe even the Son of God, to which Judas, his best friend, is calling serious bullshit in Heaven on Their Minds, the best single track on the album. ‘You may be purer than most, JC, but come on, man, you know and I know you’re just as human as the rest of us, so relax, drink some more wine and stop winding up the fanatics.’ What’s amazing is how heartfelt it manages to sound, and epic, and man, what a riff — an epic and concise chunk of thoughtful progressive rock, which really did get younger me realizing just how complex a tale those Gospels purport to tell.” (Philip Random)
“Bringing It All Back Home being Bob Dylan’s other 1965 album, the one that preceded Highway 61 Revisited and the apocalyptic Like A Rolling Stone snare shot which gave this whole project impetus. But such is the nature of apocalypse, the space-time continuum gets scrambled. Which makes It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding an appropriately timely version of the Six O’clock News circa 1965. Young man wired on amphetamines and Beaujolais and a truckload of symbolist poetry, grabs a great roll of paper and gets to typing, Jack Kerouac style. The words seem to be about all manner of stuff. The words seem to be about everything. Hell, I remember an old cab driver friend insisting it was about Jesus Christ himself, up on the cross, having his moment of doubt, seeing through messianic eyes all the future desolation of so-called modern man. Then the vision fades and he notices his mom, Mary, in real time, no doubt as worried as any mother has ever been. So he gives her a wink, says not to worry, he’s alright, except for all the bleeding.”
“Late 1980s sometime, date a bit vague because I was convalescing at the time, coming off a prolonged ailment that, in retrospect, had at least something to do with a disease in my soul. Which made it the perfect time to finally discover the music of Gram Parsons. Yeah, I’d heard of him, how he pretty much invented country rock, hooked up with Keith Richard, turned heroin blue way before his time. But now via random discovery of his only two solo albums at a yard sale, I was actually hearing his soul, because that’s what it was (still is), his take on so-called Country. Soul music, grievous and angelic. And precisely what I hadn’t been hearing pretty much my entire life, which was a white man digging deep into the roots of his own music, finding some beauty therein. If you don’t like Country, you don’t really like me.” (Philip Random)
“I believe that the sex beat the Gun Club are on about here is what the kids call rock and roll. Which is why all the preachers and the like wanted it banned back in the day which, of course, is the best thing that could ever have happened to rock and roll. And it continued to happen over the years. Tried to anyway – the cleaning up of that filthy sex beat. Which whenever even remotely successful, only forced it underground, the filthiest place of all. And thus it ran into the likes of Gun Club in the late 70s, early 80s, drinking and drugging their way around the grungiest dives of LA, dysfunctional as f*** and thus one of the greatest bands most decent folk have still never heard of, and thus still capable of shaking a few foundations. All hail the self righteous. They know not what they do, and they do it so well.” (Philip Random)
“Because there must be at least one B-52’s track on this list, and it must be from the first side of their first album, and Dance This Mess Around seems to be not only comparatively underheard, but also the best damned thing on it. Yeah, Rock Lobster gets the frat-boys going and Planet Claire‘s kind of indispensable at Halloween parties and Sci-Fi conventions, but only Dance This Mess Around has the sort of relentless and hypnotic groove that locks you into ALL sixteen dances, including the infamous Dirty Dog. In other words, I’ve gone on a lot about all the necessary bile and intensity of punk and so-called New Wave and all the profound and necessary insurrection it unleashed upon the culture through the late 1970s … but none that would have happened if it wasn’t a mad lot of fun.” (Philip Random)
Second of two in a row from possibly the most evil album of all time, Aphrodite’s Child’s 666, a four sided monster of a concept completely concerned with … well, what is it all about? According to principal composer and keyboard wizard Vangelis Papathanassiou said, “the answer to the question 666 is today.” Lyricist Costas Ferris (taking a break from his main job of film directing) has been less elusive, citing the central concept as a counter-cultural interpretation of the Book of Revelation, in which a circus show based on the apocalypse performs for an audience at the same time that the real apocalypse is happening outside the circus tent … with All the Seats are Occupied the prolonged and climactic point where these two apocalypses finally collide and all hell breaks loose. Literally. But is it really hell? Aphrodite’s Child being a rarity for all time, a psyche-prog-pop-rock outfit straight outa Greece, apocalypse being a Greek word not for the the catastrophic End of All Things, but for the drawing back a sheet, an unveiling of a new and mysterious thing. So why all the panic humanity?
Aphrodite’s Child being a Greek psyche-prog outfit who didn’t seem to recognize a boundary between sweetest syrup and the hottest fires of hell, musically speaking. It was all just part of the same grand feast. At least, that’s how it feels on 666, their third and biggest and most extreme album, and their most evil, some might argue – the four-sided concept being no less than a musical adaptation of the final chapter of the Holy Bible, the Book of Revelation. With the Four Horsemen being the closest any single track comes to pulling everything together into a single, cohesive (almost) radio friendly unit shifter, the Lamb having opened the first seal, the visions thus unleashed.
“In which Lee Scratch Perry (aka Rainford Hugh Perry), the maddest mix-doctor of them all, nails us with a powerful ember of soul fire that manages to be equal parts easy and strange. Because it’s roots reggae (always an easy groove) and it concerns the human soul (always strange). Doesn’t matter if you’re in feverishly hot Trenchtown, Jamaica, or just some pointless suburb at the north-western edge of the crumbling civilization known as Babylon. It’s all humanity if you drill deep enough.” (Philip Random)