36. stand + you can make it if you try

“This live Sly + the Family Stone double shot comes from the awkwardly titled monster The First Great Rock Festivals of the Seventies: Isle of Wight / Atlanta Pop Festival which is one of those albums I inherited because nobody else wanted it – from my friend Carl who’d previously grabbed it from his older brother’s discard pile. Six sides of this and that including Johnny Winter, Poco, The Allman Brothers, Jimi Hendrix, Leonard Cohen, even some Miles Davis. I guess the whole was less than sum of its parts. I say ‘guess’ because I lost track of everything but the middle two sides a long time ago – the Procol Harum, Ten Years After, David Bromberg, Cactus and Sly and The Family Stone sides, all from the 1970 Isle Of Wight Festival (Britain’s Woodstock if you believe the hype, but history seems to argue it was a little more contentious than that).

Anyway, the one thing that is clear is just how f***ing brilliant Sly and his crowd were at that point. The best band on the planet? Maybe. Because to my mind (and soul) it’s powerful evidence of what Hunter S Thompson was talking about, 1971 sometime, that psychedelic morning in Las Vegas when he looked to the west toward San Francisco and saw just how far the great waves of love and evolution had reached before, sadly, tragically, inevitably, they achieved their high water point, and thus began their great retreat. Because the 1960s were nothing if not a wild and unprecedented ocean storm — not just one lone rogue wave taking out a some unsuspecting picnickers, but a sustained, relentless, committed storm, one wave after another, ebbing and flowing, always creeping further inland, going for the heart of the beast that was America (etc). Because we do need to remember this stuff, how free things can get, and it’s seldom ever been as free as a Sly And The Family Stone rave-up, live or in the studio, women and men of all races, creeds, making their stand, not fighting the power so much as grooving right on through it, confident as f*** they’d make it they just never stopped trying. At least until the drugs wore off.” (Philip Random)

(image source)

45. young man blues

“Second of two in a row from the Who’s 1970 eruption Live At Leeds, because in case there’s any doubt, props must go to possibly/probably the greatest single slab of live ROCK vinyl ever unleashed. With the take on Mose Allison’s Young Man Blues manifesting as a powerhouse of such magnitude that it’s hard to imagine they didn’t just invent it on the spot, torn from the gods’ own hearts. For here is a genuinely classic band captured at absolute peak relevance, no excuses offered, none required (though captured is probably the wrong word for something as wild as this). And unlike that previous selection, My Generation, which ricochets and rambles its young man’s confusion for better of a quarter-hour, Young Man Blues focuses the superlative noise to just five-minutes-fifty-two seconds of glory that’s as relevant now as it’s ever been, probably even more so. Because nowadays, the young men, they got sweeeeet f*** all.” (Philip Random)

46. my generation

“You can do a lot worse than calling The Who’s My Generation the first proper punk rock song. Because it really does have it all — teenage rage, power, angst, frustration, horniness, confusion, all erupting as a sustained declaration of … something that’s impossible to really put into words without f***ing stuttering off into guitar, bass, drums, distortion, explosions and sustained thunder from there out to the edges of the nine known universes, which is what happens in the best version, the 1970 Live At Leeds version that just keeps mutating and erupting for almost fifteen minutes, the band having grown over the years into a monstrous garage apocalypse of noise and negation that was nevertheless playing the biggest festivals, topping the highest charts, like the answer to the question: what happens if you cross a Mod with a supernova?

Such that maybe eight years later, an eternally frustrating late teenage night, nothing to do, nowhere to go, just me and my friend Doug, a 26er of Tequila, his dad’s Camaro and an 8-Track of Live At Leeds. It’s snowed recently, so we take it down to an empty mall parking lot and cut loose with power slides, fishtails, spinouts. True heavy metal thunder. Although it would’ve been truer if the Camaro didn’t have an automatic transmission. Which we fried. So we ditched the car, hiked home and let his dad report it stolen the next morning. We never did get caught.  Although maybe fifteen years later Doug got busted for some kind of insider trading, then split the country while out on bail. One of these days, I guess I’ll get the full story, but I doubt I’ll be any less confused.” (Philip Random)

76. Ohio

“The album was released in 1972 under Neil Young’s moniker (soundtrack to a movie almost nobody saw, and probably for good reason), but this Crosby Stills Nash + Young live recording of Ohio dates to June 1970, barely a month after the events in question – the murder by National Guard marksmen of four students on the campus of Kent State University, Ohio. So what you’re hearing is a band that’s very much in the line of fire, the smoke hasn’t even cleared, they’re playing for their lives, ferociously. Because Richard Nixon has given the executive order. F*** the long hairs and their protests, send in the tin soldiers and shoot ’em all down.” (Philip Random)

114. mother sky

“It’s 1970 and the five piece Communist-Anarchist-Nihilist combo known as Can are getting down to it somewhere in Koln, West Germany, releasing the thunder, inventing the future in the form of the fourteen minute monster called Mother Sky. The first version I’d hear would be an edit, and even that was better part of eight minutes. The album in question was a double vinyl compilation called Cannibalism and to this day it remains my go-to when somebody asks me what’s the best starter Can album. Because it covers the most ground while tactfully avoiding their later just-not-as-great stuff. Because Can, in their prolonged moment, were f***ing great. Not just the best of the so-called Krautrock crowd, but maybe (on some days anyway) the best damned band ever, from anywhere, any time. And for me, that moment starts with 1970’s Soundtracks (an album’s worth of music made for various movies) because it’s the first Can offering to feature Damo Suzuki‘s vocals, which definitely rise to the occasion of Mother Sky.” (Philip Random)

128. rock and roll

“The image I’ve generally had of Lou Reed is of this too cool misanthrope who lived to hate the Beatles, ruin parties, bring everybody down to his level of overall discontent. But then you hear a song like Rock And Roll (from the Velvet Underground’s Loaded) in which he rhapsodizes the redemptive freedom inherent in hearing the right three minute song at the right time, and well, all is forgiven. The man is even more like the Grinch than he lets on – with a heart at least two-sizes two big.” (Philip Random)

(getty image)

134. heaven on their minds

“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)

(image source)

148. is it because I’m black?

“I’m not black, I’m not even the lightest shade of brown. But I guess if the soul of a song is true – you get it anyway. Part of it, at least. Because there’s a lot to get from Syl Johnson‘s Is It Because I’m Black? (both song and album) – the sheer frustration, rage, pain, resentment of it, sadly still as relevant now as it was decades ago.” (Philip Random)

(image source)

150. ramble tamble

“As albums go, few from any era can top Creedence Clearwater Revival‘s 1970 monster Cosmo’s Factory, if only for the six charting singles. Let me say that again: six charting singles. That’s more than many successful bands get in a career. And then there’s Ramble Tamble (the best track on the album, maybe from their entire career) which wasn’t released as a single, because it was too long, too weird, a tough swampy rock song bookending an absolutely epic jam. In other words, this is me, twelve or thirteen, in my cousin’s bedroom, headphones on, getting sent, getting educated as to where music could go — that a song could be way more than just sticky sweet candy to get played on the radio between ads for soda pop and jeans. Welcome to my future.” (Philip Random)

(image source)