560. Aladdin Sane (1913–1938–197?)

“As I’ve heard it argued, Aladdin Sane (the album) is song-for-song the best of the Ziggy-era Bowie albums. Yet as a whole, it somehow doesn’t add up the way the previous two do, and thus hasn’t gotten heard as much. Which is great for our purposes as it gives us a bunch of cool non-allergenic gems, like the genuinely insane title track, particularly the part where it goes all free jazz toward the end. Stratospheres over my teenage head when I first heard it. But I listened anyway. It was David f***ing Bowie.” (Philip Random)

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592. needles in the camel’s eye

“Sometimes I need to see a song used in a movie to truly get it. In the case of Needles in the Camel’s Eye (the first song on the first side of Brian Eno’s first solo album), that movie was Velvet Goldmine, the title sequence in which glam-rock fervour erupts through drab Britain circa 1971-72. As the story goes, David Bowie refused to let director Todd Haynes use any of his music in a movie that was a essentially about him. So Haynes scrambled, signed up everybody else that was relevant at the time, and the result was perhaps more confusing than originally intended, but probably better.” (Philip Random)

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596. we were all uprooted

First there was Aphrodite’s Child and its mad fusions of extreme psychedelia and extreme pop. Eventually, there was Academy Award winning soundtrack stuff so definitive it’s since become kind of a cliché.  In the middle somewhere is Earth, Vangelis Papathanasiou‘s first solo album, where the two extremes fuse and find all kinds of room to move.  Aeons of it as We Were All Uprooted attests, both ethereal and grounded, like history itself shrouded in mist, the clues buried in the earth.

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598. concrete jungle

“The release date for Catch A Fire says 1973 but I didn’t have the right ears for Bob Marley and the Wailers (and reggae in general for that matter) until at least 1980. And Concrete Jungle was pivotal in that evolution, and marijuana. By which I mean, Old Ted (one of my more dependable dealers at the time) insisted that I get high on some particularly effective herb, and listen to Catch A Fire with him. ‘Because marijuana will never be free until Jamaica is free.’ Which sounds a bit vague now but trust me, it made profound sense then. And it all started with Concrete Jungle, first track on the album, one of the best bands ever in all creation, slowly slipping things into gear for a revelatory journey through the concrete and shadows of Babylon and beyond.” (Philip Random)

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604. For Calvin + his next two hitchhikers

“Everybody’s got that Frank Zappa track which, for whatever reason, hooked them into realizing, holy sh**, this guy’s way more than just a hippie weirdo with a dirty sense of humour. For me, don’t ask me why, it was For Calvin and His Next Two Hitchhikers. Maybe it was the relaxed yet deranged bigness of sound, because The Grand Wazoo was definitely a big sounding endeavor. Maybe it was the oddly incomplete story being told concerning the two dudes in the back of the car. Where did they come from? Where did they go? Did they find a sandwich? Did they eat it in the dark? And why do I care? Maybe it was that leakage from the drain in the night. Early 1980s sometime. There were probably psychedelics involved.” (Philip Random)

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637. A Passion Play

“It seems insane to think about it now, but in 1972 Jethro Tull conquered the world with a 43-minute-44-second song called Thick as a Brick, which comprised the entire album of the same name. Adventurous, dense, continuous, it even half made sense, both musically and lyrically. So what did Ian Anderson (Tull main man) and his talented crew do for a follow-up? Another album long song, of course, this one called A Passion Play, which proved even more dense and adventurous than Thick As A Brick. And I’m still trying to figure it out. Actually, that’s a lie. I gave up a long time ago, because as a friend concluded, ‘Man, you’ve gotta be Ian Anderson’s f***ing brain to know what any of that’s supposed to mean.’ Which doesn’t mean I ever stopped listening to it, just thinking about it. I guess I just pretend I’m the guy’s brain for a while.” (Philip Random)

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638. musicione

By 1973, The Guess Who were mostly on the wane, certainly as a commercial force. Randy Bachman was long gone, and what had been a outfit that couldn’t seem to help cranking out the hits now seemed more interested in just being an improper rock ‘n’ roll band, drinking and drugging and whoring around. Which doesn’t mean the music was dead – you just weren’t hearing it that much on the radio anymore. Musicione for instance. A smart rocker with a loose jammed-out feel that ends up feeling like a hymn toward something or other. Who makes the music when you die?  Somebody else, obviously.

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643. meadows

Joe Walsh tends to get conveniently filed away as the fun loving stoner guy who eventually got scooped up by the Eagles and then whatever. But that misses the point that The Smoker You Drink The Player You Get is one of the genuinely best American albums of its time, and thus of all time, because albums are where it was at in 1973. The big hit was Rocky Mountain Way (speaking of fun loving stoner rock), but my fave will always be Meadows, one of those songs that sent this very young man wild and free, running through fields, leaping old stone walls. Dreaming about it anyway, as I was mostly stuck in suburbia at the time. Nice melody, killer guitar riff, but it’s the drums that still send me, the way they come crashing in like a flash flood, the kind that saves your life rather than ends it. Hallelujah.” (Philip Random)

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644. swimming song

“In which Loudon Wainwright III waxes poetic about leaping bravely into the river, the lake, the ocean that is all life, the universe, everything … and not sinking. Or maybe it’s just about tossing yourself into a chlorinated pool and working on your strokes. I mean, this is the guy whose monster hit of the previous year was about a dead skunk and how bad it smelled. Great stuff either way.” (Philip Random)

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