199. journey of the sorcerer

Wherein the Eagles (yes, those Eagles) ditch the regular LA cocaine bullshit for a while, take off to the desert, drop a few peyote buttons and journey long and far and deep and high unto the nether regions of the great American soul, or perhaps some other universe entirely. Here they encounter the legendary Don Juan, who we now know wasn’t even real, but The Eagles don’t care about reality anymore anyway, they’ve got a magic banjo with them that somehow coaxes great sweeps of orchestral beauty down from the heavens and thus all is right, all is good, all sounds quite extraordinary, and unique – to the Eagles discography, to music in general. Journey of the Sorcerer really is one of a kind. Eventually, The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy will cop it for its title theme, and no one will even complain.

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200. Rose of Cimarron

Poco were one of those bands I used to hear a lot on the radio and didn’t like, their country infused soft rock being so inoffensive it became the opposite. But not Rose of Cimarron, which rose profoundly from the soft, sticky muck and set the god damned sky on fire the first time I gave it a proper listen. By which I mean, it’s BIG like a great western sunset, with a breeze throwing up dust at least as old as time, catching the rays of that setting sun and reminding me of why I’m glad I’m alive. Because every now and then life, the universe, God, or maybe just a soft rock band operating out of LA touches something epic and eternal and unleashes music so god damned beautiful even the hills get to weeping. And it’s even a true story. Sort of.” (Philip Random)

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206. Maybe the People Would Be the Times or Between Clark and Hilldale

“Second of two in a row from Love‘s 1967 masterpiece Forever Changes, because it really is an album (as opposed to a collection of songs). Or as an ex-DJ friend once put it – ‘I find it hard to put tracks from Forever Changes in a mix, because they always work best next to each other, as part of the intended flow.’ And these songs aren’t exactly out to take prisoners, not obviously anyway. They’re just content to work a warm and consistent and slightly hazy (perhaps smoggy) LA vibe of heartbreak and beauty and colours forever changing and whatever else it is that Arthur Lee‘s singing about. With titles like Maybe the People Would Be the Times or Between Clark and Hilldale, he’s clearly singing about everything. But love most of all.” (Philip Random)

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207. alone again or

“I don’t believe I heard Love’s Forever Changes until at least the 1990s. Not consciously anyway, because it is the kind of album that might’ve just slipped by. Not for any inherent weakness so much as its subtlety and, I guess, its timelessness – its strings and horns and multicoloured melodies and mysteries. It may have come out of Summer of Love Los Angeles, but heard in the background at a café or from the next room at a party, it could be almost any decade (since the 1960s anyway). As for Alone Again Or, it’s all in the title, I guess. Not so much a love song as a lack of love song, yet there is still hope. It is 1967 after all.” (Philip Random)

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260. We’re Only in it for the Money [part one]

“It’s only 1968 and Frank Zappa and his Mothers have already had it with the hippies and their bullshit, but he hates the straights even more. And we get it all in the full-on technicolor onslaught of satirical genius that is We’re Only In It For The Money, all thirty-nine plus minutes of it. Technically, it’s nineteen separate tracks but they all flow together (sometimes smoothly, sometimes deliberately not), so I’ve always thought of it as one epic piece, or two in the case of the original vinyl. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t prefer side one – if only for its inclusion of perhaps the single greatest minute of Mr. Zappa’s entire discography, What’s the Ugliest Part of Your Body? The answer, of course, is your mind. It’s funny because it’s true.” (Philip Random)

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265. barstool blues

“Second of two in a row from Neil Young’s endlessly rich early mid-70s phase, though the album in question, Zuma, is not considered part of the Ditch series. Hard to say why really as, to my ears, it seems rather in line with the previous three albums’ grief and brooding and overall shambolic beauty. In the case of Barstool Blues that means an anthem for all the times you’ve just got to sit at the bar all night and drink, reconciling all the stupid shit you’ve perpetrated, and how its fallout got you there, sitting, drinking, reconciling, moaning those barstool blues … maybe somewhere near Zuma Beach, a thick haze of L.A. smog hanging over everything reminding you that every breath you take is a tiny piece of your inevitable death, but in a good way.” (Philip Random)

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273. plastic people

“As a kid who hit his teens in the early 1970s, I sort of always knew about Frank Zappa and his Mothers and their various crimes against humanity, but I never really fell in love until I heard Absolutely Free toward the end of high school, Plastic People in particular, and how nastily, incisively, hilariously it skewered all the transparent, pre-fab zombies I walked the halls with, who I once thought of as friends, but now, they just seemed hard-wired for lives of desperate boredom, intent on becoming just like their parents, only worse, because normal always gets worse. Yet Plastic People is in fact not about suburbia 1977, but Los Angeles 1967, a grand piss take of pretty much everyone, even the hippies, and how there was plastic where their souls should have been. It was just that kind of town, I guess. Still is, apparently.” (Philip Random)

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356. south of heaven

“How f***ed up was the war on drugs? In Los Angeles, 1993, a few weeks before Christmas, a few weeks after River Phoenix had died on the sidewalk outside the Viper Room, a gram or two of heroin cost less than a gram or two of proper skunk weed due mainly to who and what had been getting busted of late. Which wouldn’t have been a problem if we weren’t day drinking, and feeling that something else was needed in the mix, and Gus from Idaho, being cheap, showed up with some heroin instead of the expected bud. And the thing is, none of us are that cool. We’ve never done heroin, but suddenly there it is getting laid out in narrow brownish lines on the coffee table, and yeah, we’re all just drunk enough to be stupid enough to not give a f***, even if you can die just snorting the stuff, particularly if you’re not used to it, if your body hasn’t built up a decent tolerance, this being common knowledge to anyone who’s seen Pulp Fiction. But then just as Greg from Osoyoos is rolling up a dollar bill, Slayer comes crashing in, full roar on the stereo. It’s Smith from Nelson, calling bullshit, enlisting no lesser ally than Lucifer himself, the Morning Star from his haunt way down south of heaven, demanding we see things at least slightly straight. Long story/short, we Just Said No to the heroin, went out for cheap tacos instead, ended up watching I Love Lucy reruns on some lost cable channel. And Slayer will forever have a place in my heart and soul, somewhere in the paradox file.” (Philip Random)

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393. sin city

Los Angeles, 1969, murder, mayhem, earthquakes, rumors of Armageddon, the whole city of angels falling into the Pacific, such that even on the 33rd Floor, beyond the gold plated door, the Lord’s almighty flame would find the wicked, and soon. Meanwhile, country rock was getting invented by a curious crowd of drugged out hippies in cowboy suits calling themselves the Flying Burrito Brothers. Good times.

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