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 (found on the Velvet Underground‘s 1970 offering Loaded) wherein he rhapsodizes on the redemptive freedom inherent in hearing the right three minute song (the kind that tells only the truth) 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)

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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 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. Or as my lawyer Lorena recently put it: the most singular thing about it all is how Jesus, in order to do his bit, had to be as human as the rest of us, which meant even he had serious doubts about his alleged divinity right up to the brutal end.” (PR)

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)

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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)

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165. soul rebel

“With a small handful of exceptions, the very best Bob Marley is the very early Bob Marley, the stuff he recorded long before we, the godless multitudes of greater Babylon, had a clue that even existed, when he was still just some struggling Jamaican local trying to believe in his soul. In particular, you’ve gotta love what he did with the singularly unsane Lee Scratch Perry in the producer’s chair. I do anyway, the two of them (and the band, of course) exploring far darker, edgier realms of soul and rebellion than what would eventually come to hog all the space on the Greatest Hits albums, get hippies dancing around bonfires, pretending they’re little birds.” (Philip Random)

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250. Memo from Turner

Second of two in a row from the soundtrack to the movie called Performance, which if you haven’t seen it yet, why not? Memo From Turner being the single Mick Jagger track that puts the lie to the entirety of the rest of his so-called solo career (ie: it’s really quite good), managing to sound every bit as down and dirty and relevant as what his regular crowd were up to at the time (ie: riding their sustained peak).

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251. natural magic

Performance (the 1970 movie) is almost as good as its soundtrack, or maybe it’s the other way around. Either way, it’s a dark, dark gem – something to do with gangsters, an illusive rock star, drugs, sex, nihilism, and the only true performance ending in madness. As for the music, it covers at least as much ground and features all manner of then essential contributors, with producer/composer Jack Nitzsche at the heart of it all, delivering just what you might expect from a fatally bored rock star with piles of money but precious little inspiration, desperate for something/anything that might allow him to haul himself back into a world where anything matters.

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264. love song

“It’s 1970 and Elton John is still a ways from superstardom. Which doesn’t mean he may already have recorded the best album of his career. It’s called Tumbleweed Connection and yeah, it’s working a slightly silly concept about the old west, but the songs are so good, who cares? With Love Song a particular standout for me if only because it’s been so overlooked in its understated, ambient lushness. Almost too beautiful. And it’s a cover. Lesley Duncan wrote it.” (Philip Random)

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268. ride a white swan

“If you’re British, you’ve likely heard plenty of T-Rex in your time, maybe way too much. But over here in the Americas a track like Ride A White Swan never cracked pop radio back in the day, so it still retains the kind of freshness that turns heads, gets people nodding along, smiling, wondering, ‘Who is this?’ Like it was recorded last week, not better part of half a century ago. Still makes me smile pretty much every time I hear it, Marc Bolan’s oddly spry little ditty about skyways, sunbeams, druids and tatooed gowns. Some say it invented Glam. I ain’t arguing.” (Philip Random)

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