ISSUE 13   FALL 2002
page 12 of 16



A LOADED PROPOSITION: Joe S. Harrington Picks the All-Time Top 100 Or...Who Pulled The Trigger?

Installment THREE of FOUR

50. Milestones—Miles Davis (Columbia, 1958): Gotta hate Sony for the way they’ve repackaged vintage Miles—f’ rinstance, while the selections on the 6-CD Miles Davis & John Coltrane are generally excellent throughout, the botched-up programming is a disgrace: wouldn’t it ‘ve been better to just have each alb stand on its own instead o’ breakin’ ‘em up according to session date etc.? Add to that the completely incomprehensible packaging, and the fact that none of the disks are even numbered, and what you have is a monument to total confusion more than anything else. I know Sony think they’re slickboys with this kind of approach, but I find it incredibly irksome and have ever since they began their “current” Miles Davis reissues program in ’98. There’s also no concrete delineation of which tracks actually came from which albs, unless y’ want to read the fine print, which, since my memory on this stuff fails me, makes it practically impossible to make a conclusive judgment as to which alb was actually the “best” one o’ this whole fruitful period of Davisology.  Since I don’t have another copy of Milestones in the house apparently I’ll have to use the harder-‘n-hell-to-read “key” in the appendix (God, unless you’ve witnessed this thing, you, the reader, cannot imagine how incredibly frustratingly fucked-up it is—who conceived it anyway? Did they give the job to retarded kids on a grant?! Jeez!). Tells me that Milestones was the alb that directly preceded Kind of Blue (‘less y’ count the French-film-soundtrack Jazz Track and the live-at-Newport-with-Monk thing which wasn’t even issued til ’64)—the personnel is the same as the one on that much-more-widely-heralded opus, ‘cept the piano seat is occupied by Red Garland instead o’ Bill Evans. The modal stuff hadn’t come out as much yet, and in points you can still hear the band clinging to the past, such as in the hard-bop arrangement o’ Monk’s “Straight No Chaser”—but literally within seconds, Adderley’s off on an absolutely smokin’ solo that is so totally THERE it’s prophetic. Coltrane reeds like a devil on this one too, altho’ in a much more circular way that occurs about 4 minutes into the tune. Interesting to note that Miles was already setting up the formula for Kind of Blue, having each soloist do his thing in succession with tonal overlap.  “Milestones” itself is completely entrancing in its lilting estimation of war and sex (we’re speaking figuratively of course).  This is the Norman Mailer fifties. As Miles once said: “Sheee-it! Norman Mailer! Norman Podheretz! They’s all named Norman!” Once again, another knock to Sony for the version I have, which actually SPLITS UP the alb over the course of two CDs, making it impossible to enjoy the masterpiece in the seamless state it was conceived. But even in this butchered and mutilated state, Milestones is still one of the best jazz albs ever made. A lot of times with jazz, one can sense the greatness without actually feeling the palpable pulp…but this was one occasion where the heart, lungs and yes the soul were in complete unison. Jazz-as-music as opposed to jazz-as-a-learning-experience…who woulda thought it could ever be done?

49. Spiritual Unity—Albert Ayler (ESP, 1964): The all-time best trio record…I dunno, was Black Beings done as a trio? I think not.  Only thing close is Tres Hombres by ZZ Top and their whole triad had less to do with a sound-vs-mass relationship and more to do with more of a closed prism. By “trio” I mean a thinking-person’s triangle where each point resonates with its own personality, which is just what happens here when Albert Ayler (tenor) sits down with Gary Peacock (bass) and Sunny Murray (drums) in the post-Kennedy Assasination post-Beatles summer of 1964…Ayler had made a name for himself already as one of the more extreme post-Coltrane post-Ornette shriekers but this was his first as a leader, I believe, and the first alb on ESP (perhaps, along with Sun, the greatest record label of ALL TIME!) Ayler’s method was yet another revolution in sound that led even further than Coltrane…Albert didn’t so much as honk but more CHOMP and he didn’t mind letting the sinewy gristle just FRY for a while…this involved a lot of loading and unloading measures, which is just why he picked cats who were equally in their own world to accompany him.  More trad dudes wouldn’t have been able to hover in the gaps like the brilliant maestros here—Peacock is particularly awesome in this case with his choice arco supremacy.  Can you believe 15 yrs later his wife would record a blowjob album? Of course Sunny Murray soon became the favorite of Ayler and others as far as free-jazz tub-boys and his leaf-rustling maneuvers are the root of all subsequent Art Ensemble-oid thistle-whistle. And what I mean by Ayler creating a whole new style was that, at this pt in time, even Ornette had never reduced it to such smoldering primalisms as Ayler on a track like “Spirits” (where Peacock also gets to solo for fifteen minutes—did he ever get to make his own ESP alb as leader?) In any case, it was definitely the fire under David Ware’s ass, among many others. “Ghosts” of course is a classic free-wheeling folk-tune brought down from the mountain and set on fire right in front of the Pentagon.  Perfect sixties, in other words.

48. Point of Departure—Andrew Hill (Blue Note, 1964): Speaking of which…not as apocalyptic as Ayler, but equally important in the annals of fiery mid-sixties improv-based non-bop testifying. The Blue Note formula since, oh about Blue Train, was to have each artist rotate acting as the other’s session man etc. Every man on this LP—pianist Hill, tenor sax man Joe Henderson, trumpeter Kenny Dorham, drummer Tony Williams, bassist Richard Davis, and of course the great alto-ist Eric Dolphy—had albs of their own as leaders with equally illustrious but totally different supporting casts. As such, virtually EVERY Blue Note alb between the years ’58-’68 was the results of a de facto “supergroup” (LONG before rock cats ever did it but that was just the nature—if not number—o’ the beast, correct?) What makes Point of Departure the VERY best o’ these ‘60s Blue Note summit-meetings—besides the fact it was one of Dolphy’s last—is the complex impasse between free and hard-bop that it represents, and the way the players, even somewhat pedestrian ones like Hendu and Dorham (definitely the two weakest links on the alb instrumentally), wriggle their way out of this impasse with bewildering alacrity. Hill as leader as well as improviser is an overlooked light—as pianists go he was always more interesting than Jaki Byard in the whole post-Monk school. And as far as sideways harmonics go, he was second only to Cecil (and possibly Sun Ra). His other Blue Note albs like Andrew! and Black Fire were also good, but this is the best band he ever had, and the combination of Williams’ brinksmanship-like crystallizations, Dolphy’s tubular ecstasy, Davis’s proficient plough-horse crusadings and Hill’s own unique algebra mark this is as one of the finest outings of the era, if not jazz in general. (NB: It should also be noted that 3/6ths o’ this band—Dolphy, Davis and Williams—also worked together on Dolphy’s Out to Lunch, recorded just prior to Point of Departure, but in retrospect this one burns a little deeper.)

47. Closer—Joy Division (Factory, 1980): I dunno, an Angloid version of X’s Wild Gift? It’s the same dark grim vision of the city but this time it’s the city-of-the-damned inside Ian Curtis’s brain and this really was his swansong, like a more perfectly-embossed Peter Laughner or something.  The negate-everything grate o’ their first album, Unknown Pleasures, coupled w/ the first PiL, set the stage for slithering pipers like the Psychedelic Furs but by the time JD got to this ‘un, with its grim “gothic” art-fag cover, their paeans du pain were like blubbering manifestos of misery designed to bring a whole generation a step closer to suicide. Cher commented that the Velvets would “replace nothing except suicide” and it’s kind of apropos that Joy Division, a Velvets-inspired band to be sure, would spawn a singer who ultimately would commit suicide—the point being, a whole generation of doom-obsessed Casper Ghosts in black jeans and sunglasses (the aforementioned Furs, the Jesus & Mary Chain) would grow up believing that the suicide was the point. Manchester itself rocked to these sounds, and the Smiths were nothing if not a gayer, lighter version.  The rhythm section broke down the formal definition of such for perhaps the first time, making what Ventresco calls the “carbuncle rock” a reality (if not outright common cause).  End result? Sonic Youth? Suicide? End result? Cobain (who COVERED Joy Division ten yrs later, along w/ a million others). Art fags? End result? I dunno…Bauhaus? In a word: influential (PS: I still think he died trying to get a stiffy…)

46. The Germs (GI) (Slash, 1979): The true Stooges? To wit: just finished readin’ the Paul Beahm bio, Lexicon Devil and there’s no doubt that the Darbster was one prescient lad but he was futzed-up by the usual issues: fatherless home, the riptide o’ the sixties/seventies clashing like a washed-up vodka bottle on the shoreline o’ the cultural turf (BOWIE!) and bein’ a fuckin’ homo.  Sure he toyed w/ fascistic images but so did the Elec. Eels, Dead Bums, Saville Chien, Maine’s own SAME BAND, New Race, the Angry Samoans, Thunders, Asheton, BOWIE again, LOU REED, Laughner, the Dictators, Blue Oyster Cult etc. etc. It was just something in the air at the time—and what it wuz was us kidz o’ the crazy seventies coming to terms w/ the cartoonery that virtually all of life had become in our carefree Brave New World betwixt the tumult o’ the past (Vietnam, Civil Rights, Watergate) and the future (AIDs, Reagan, terrorism).  We didn’t CARE who got offended by swastikas etc. It wasn’t the touchy-feely world of nowadays…subsequently kidz like Darby, Pat Smear, Don Bolles n’ Lorna Doom hit a brick wall, full impact, a thousand times. Weren’t no soccer moms in those days. As the photographer/musician John Fahnley marveled recently: “We had such freedom!” It’s true, you got home from school in the afternoon and dumped yr books off n’ then went out n’ met yr friends for a quick Bactine bag blowjob. Nobody cared. Weren’t no global village yet, even our PARENTS couldn’t see us…now everything we do, every fuckin’ private thought, belongs to the well-greased “system”…Fahnley again: “Eeeeh, the only thing Orwell got wrong was the year.”  And what this alb sounds like to me is the last dying grasp o’ that kind of boundless teen zealot prankery…this carefree kind of fatal nihilism before they reigned us in for good—which is why it becomes a more vital document as each year passes. Darby sang “gimme gimme gimme this/gimme gimme THAT!” Henry Rollins sang: “Gimme gimme GIMME/I need some more.” This was LA in the late seventies—are you beginning to get the message? But the pt is, it was EVERYWHERE, and the Germs led the crusade for MORE (but not necessarily “better”). TV had taught us, every minute had to be filled…and if the minutes were filled by burning each other w/ cigarette butts as some kind of weird “initiation” to the cult-like Zen-fixtures that Manson-wannabe Paul Bheam espoused, so be it.  What at first sounded like cat-yelp accelerated to a torturous treadmill pace of utter ridiculousness became the prototype for “hardcore,” which of course the Germs never really were—altho’ they got the speed thing down: Bolles was a great drummer and when Darby fired him for the unpardonable sin of wearing a dress in Vox Pop (meanwhile Darby was sucking all the COCK he could handle), the band lost something mighty. Indeed, another alb was never made…by then Darby was a mess of drugs and confused homosexual anxieties…the only thing next was death.  The whole history of rock is a stream of consciousness really: Gene Vincent, Sky Saxon, Iggy, Stiv, Sid, Darby, finally culminating in GG.  Self-mutilation made e-z. Read the book.  Whatever happened to that movie they were supposed to make about him?

45. Trout Mask Replica—Captain Beefheart (Straight, 1969): This bozo has been enshrined by anti-pop fanatics for years now but who the fuck can actually sit around and listen to this stuff? There’s a lot of things about this guy that bothers me—the whole “little weirdo” persona, the way he mistreats his bandmates and his missus etc. Also the suspicion I have, after years and years of following the rock critic party-line that the guy must be a genius, the sneaking suspicion that perhaps he’s a little bit of a hoax. His anti-music qualities nowadays, far from being within the same loopy stratospheres as the Velvets, seem almost self-indulgent and narcissistic. Trout Mask is NOT my “favorite” of his albums—that honor would probably go to Safe as Milk, his first, which is the only one that’s even semi-musical altho’ the faux “live” Mirror Man is a pretty impressive rhythmic exercise on the same level as Ornette’s Dancing in Your Head for sustained ankle-twisting. But Trout Mask must be acknowledged because it’s the one that put him in the textbooks (thanks primarily to L. Bangs who, in his cough syrup-fueled anomie right there at the tail end of the sixties heard, in the contrary, antisocial nature of these songs, the siren song). I actually think Zappa in the soundbooth helped…the montage qualities that he’d already employed come into play once again here, to startling results—the Capt. is nothing if not INTENSE at all times, and the bullfrog croak of a voice is definitely heads higher than a Wildman Fischer or Gary Moore…but “musical genius”?  Well yeah, I guess maybe…but those who know the sixties know that, as far as eccentrics went, the well got even deeper (as epitomized by our next entry). Beefheart was absolutely the first of those shattered fractured “geniuses” (save perhaps Syd Barrett) to be appreciated at all…but in certain ways his unabashed deitydom made possible a kind of elite reverse-prejudice…that is, that anything discordant was more desirable than anything even remote tuneful (like the Beatles, for instance). Not sure I could really take a steady diet of Van Vliet—and  I have my doubts about how many of his champions, when faced with that option, really could either (which is what I mean about a “hoax”—in many ways, his is the ultimate Emperor’s New Clothes syndrome).  Best thing he ever did: retire. I’m serious, I don’t mean that sarcastically—the thing that’s ultimately killed virtually all the bloated windbags of the sixties is that they’ve just fucking hung around too long…except Don. That’s admirable. Oh, now I know why people might love him so much! He’s “uncompromising” (in spades). But still, if y’ can’t really listen to the music, who cares? I play Trout Mask once, twice a year…that’s enough. Admittedly, it always fascinates me.  But only a total dork at this point could take a steady diet o’ this shit (even Licht tempers his great love o’ the Captain w/ Van Halen).

44. The Parable of Arable Land—Red Krayola (International Artists, 1968): This bozo has been enshrined by etc. This came out a year before Trout Mask and comes from the same fractured mindset but Mayo Thompson was perhaps even madder than the Cap…and it just shows the old adage, “some guys don’t get the breaks some of us do.”  Whereas Beefheart was catapulted to the whole Warner/Reprise nuthouse of the early seventies, and the cover of Rolling Stone, no-one heard this album in the sixties, and most of the seventies.  It was only when later subsequent “post-punk” revelations became apparent that the influence of these Texas maniacs became apparent—for one thing, for communal spuzz, their first alb, God Bless…and All Who Sail was the ultimate of sixties free-form acid freakout, even better than Kesey’s alb and DEFINITELY better than the Fugs (or Fowley). However, no-one could’ve been prepared for the second Red Krayola album, with its embryonic web o’ songs that all seemed to flow together like the penultimate post-Pepper song-cycle but conceived on another planet, y’ know? But that planet was definitely the crucial telstar from which sprung the expanding Germanic cosmos—the creepy crab-boys of Uranus atmosphere that fills Parable’s moon-mountains is the same one that would permeate the sprawling vistas o’ Amon Duul’s communal acid-breathe. And check out the jaggery rhythms o’ “Save This House”—the whole way the bass breathes and the drums almost hover in suspended angular animation =’s total Can.  In “Dirth of Tilth,” not only do they precede the RHYTHMS o’ Can but even Damo Suzuki’s vocal style. “Music” meanwhile, with its hippie-girl chorale arrangements almost sounds Mansonoid circa Lie (which was being recorded, in yet another parallel but “alternate” universe, at precisely the same time). And don’t forget “Victory Garden,” a lilting ode to Hitler, later recorded by Galaxie 500, which is just further proof of this album’s wide-sweeping influence amongst the sniggering set. (NB: It’s no surprise he later joined Pere Ubu since, if you look at the ultra-weird and very obscure liner photos, he looks like David Thomas…what a nut!)

43. Damaged—Black Flag (SST, 1981): To many people of my generation, this was our first introduction to hardcore—I was a senior in high school when it came out, and I’ll admit, at first I didn’t get the breakneck pace of it plus I didn’t like the anti-drinking sentiment of Ginn/Rollins (we start young up here in Knucklehead-Land).  But I dug the snarl of it—the band’s static assault was a compressed ball of fuckin’ energy and Hammerin’ Hank was truly the most pissed-off vocalist I’d ever heard…and that’s something my young oversexed pube-id could relate to, plus the message of empowerment.  Now it’s evident how important this record was…while it’s not as good as either Minor Threat alb, it still stands, along with those, This is Boston Not LA, the Circle Jerks’ Group Sex, and the first Bad Religion, as the ultimate ur-hardcore disk…listen to the way Ginn’s guitar feedback breaks the song in half during the intro to “Six Pack”…and then, as the tempo accelerates and the wild buck formerly-known-as-Garfield clenches the mike and wretches and writhes in a way that makes Iggy look like the fucking Tony Curtis wannabe he always was, feel the accelerated rush of a thousand flaying shaveheads flying in the air…Which is really the beauty of Damaged…whenever you put it on, it takes you RIGHT BACK to the seething fury of that whole age. In retrospect, it can probably be said, that, with the release of this alb, the seventies were officially “over.”  These guys killed it…but they couldn’t ‘ve done it with such righteous fury if they hadn’t ultimately been a product of it. That’s the crucial difference between Black Flag and subsequent hardcore ensembles (who were, in a word: oblivious). Like all great transitional artists—from Charlie Parker to Dylan to the Beatles—they were the last of one dying syndrome, and the first of another blossoming one. If the phrase “cutting edge” means anything, these guys were the ones bearing the blade that cut it in the first place.  People shed real blood over this stuff—21 years later, the scars are still there. 

42. Blues & Roots—Charles Mingus (Atlantic, 1960): One of Mingus’s best bands, and the start of the “twin quintets” syndrome that would grace what many consider his magnum opus, The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, a couple years later. For my money, bestowing the world with the late great tenor player, Booker Ervin, was one of the best things Mingus ever did. Throw John Handy and Jackie McLean in there on alto, Horace Parlan on piano, Pepper Adams on baritone and the underrated Jimmy Knepper on trombone and one has the makings of the most protean line-up this gentle giant ever consummated. The classic track, “Moanin” (which is NOT the same as the Bobby Timmons tune made famous by the overrated Art Blakey) is a perfect example of how all the soloists lined up and, pound for pound, it’s a pretty impressive series of dispatches—no Dolphy or Kirk here, but a lot of soul-crying testimony nevertheless.  As its title suggests, Blues & Roots was just that—an attempt by the big man to confront his detractors who claimed his music was too symphonic and not earthbound enough. So what did Charles give ‘em? A sack full o’ Delta mud in the form of “Cryin’ Blues,” in which Parlan apes Ray Charles, and the immortal “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting” which could’ve only come from somebody who knew the inside of a Southern Methodist church—and the brothel next door—equally (Jackie’s fucking EXCELLENT on this track as well).

41. Group Sex—Circle Jerks (Frontier, 1980): Now this was the h-core Godhead! You listen to the velocity w/ which the 14 songs here whip by, and you have to marvel out loud: “How do they do it?” If any alb ever epitomized Shavehead Nation—that is, the 1000 cueballs all whipping themselves offstage with kamikaze-like frenzy—it was this one.  Every song a testament to the righteous fury that was hardcore.  Like Black Flag, it’s still a total seventies experience—that is, the seventies of Alice Cooper and the Stooges.  But it also captures the fear of realizing the Reagan era was dawning.  Thus there’s an expediency, an urgency, to this stuff unrivaled since the glory daze of “tin soldiers and Nixon’s comin’”…only it was REAGAN comin’ this time, and suddenly the police state seemed all the more viable and these guys realized it first with songs like “Back Against the Wall” and, most particularly, “Red Tape” where they pretty much predicted the culture we were all coming into.  But the great thing about the Jerks, atleast on this alb, is that their “politics” are borne out of anger and frustration as opposed to self-righteous ideology (ala their contemporary, Jello Biafra). These guys were pissed. Reason? “I Just Want Some Skank.” Can’t find a more honest alb than this. And once again, it was during the punk days when DIY really meant just that—these guys really didn’t care about the rock marketplace. And that’s the real definition of punk, I guess.  They never matched it again, but who cares? As far as rock albums go, they don’t come any more flawless than this one.  It’s a whole lot more “relevant” than Led Zeppelin, I can tell you that.  And it might even be more relevant than the Ramones. 

40. South Park Psycho—Gangsta NIP (Rap a Lot, 1992): Perhaps the most feared and hated alb of all time.  NIP was the Geto Boys’ venerable roadie/bodyguard who also hailed from down in Houston…but one day, drunk on Skunky Monkey, he began rappin’ the mike and the other Boys heard…genius.  Of course since they owned the record company, it was only a short step before Nippy was making an alb o’ his own…and what an alb it was.  Shit, I almost came to blows w/ one of my best friends over my endorsement of this album and all it represents, and he was someone who’d done the H and hung out w/ KILSLUG! So it just shows you, this was music that accomplished what all things “subversive” are supposed to accomplish…which is that it tested actual friendships, which only means it broke new ground. And the ground it broke was the post-Clockworkian reality of the world wrought by those pistol-shootin’ punx in NWA…which is a world where VIOLENCE is the solution to every problem. Nip thanx God and his parents on the sleeve, like all rappers were and are wont to do, but there ain’t no “respect” here for anything…and sure it’s “staged,” he doesn’t really eat raw human hearts (don’t forget, it was the age of DAHMER) and breastfeed newborn babies with unleaded gas. But atleast the idea o’ such ain’t inconceivable to him.  And that right there makes him someone that I would definitely endorse.  Inspirational verse: “I ripped out his heart/He fell to his knees/Tasted like a whopper with cheese.” 

39. Collector’s Items—Miles Davis (Prestige, 1955): The Gang-NIP o’ his day? The origins o’ this alb ‘re so goddamn fucked that they’d warrant a book on their own. Recorded in the early ‘50s during the era when Bird was blacklisted coz of his heroin addiction and couldn’t work under his own name…so he shows up as a sideman on an alb by a former sideman of his, Miles Davis…and not only that but under the name “Charlie Chan” and blowing tenor! Can Bird blow tenor? Well…is a duck’s ass watertight? Of course Bird can blow tenor and does so here with consummate braggadocio. The date took place in 1951, and a youngster named Sonny Rollins, a tenor-man-not-in-disguise, got to sit in with the man who’s shadow covered almost all of jazz at that point…on Miles’ composition, “Compulsion,” they actually trade-off solos and what do you know? The kid can play also. Infact he could play so well that Miles kept him around for a while, but as with everyone Miles works with, eventually that ran aground as well and by ’56 the two were ready to part ways. The other session on Collector’s Items (hence the name) consists of Rollins’ last date with Miles, and it’s one of the pinnacles of hard-bop featuring the harmonic insight of pianist Tommy Flanagan and the swinging rhythm section of Paul Chambers and Art Taylor. Miles himself stands out on “Vierd Blues” and Rollins provides a perfect counterpoint by laying back on the beat until the time is right to let loose with a stream of measured honks that are as soulful as they are laconic. In its own way, Rollins’ solo here is a premonition to the looping solos on his own magnum opus as a leader, Way Out West. It’s impossible to understand the evolution of the jazz scene in the fifties without owning both albums.

38. Black Unity—Pharoah Sanders (Impulse, 1972): This is Stevie’s Talking Book meets Ravi Shankar, but in this case, the mystical quotient doesn’t get in the way of the groove, which is why it’s Pharoah’s best. As a saxophonist, Sanders had already proven by this point that he was capable of overwhelming power—the earlier “Upper & Lower Egypt” was of course one of the most-heralded performances of sixties free-energy wailing.  Rightly so, but Pharoah’s problem on most of his previous albs was that he could never let that “new thing” rest, which meant that even his most soulful interludes were abbreviated to make room for more elephantine squawks.  Can’t say specifically where coz I ain’t heard ‘em in years, but this happens all over Jewels of Thought, Thembi and even Tauhid (usually considered his best).  But Black Unity is different—as an exercise in sustained harmonic groove it CANNOT be beat. One song, 38 minutes, fills two sides and they ain’t kiddin’ ‘bout “black unity”—won’t see a paleface anywhere on this session and the kind of vibrant funk riff that wriggles throughout is closer in spirit to the stuff that Stevie Wonder and Sly Stone and Isaac Hayes were doing at the time than it is to, say, A Love Supreme or Ascension. But Pharoah, to appease the afro-black quotient (that is, the one lurking in his own soul) tosses in such flavorful exotica as congas and balaphone. Given these embellishments and the black-power ferocity of the music/message here, this is actually a spiritual cousin to stuff like the ultra-ULTRA-“out” seventies afro-energy alb, Alkebulan: Land of the Blacks.  There was a period there, from about ’71 thru the loft years o’ the middle part o’ the decade when jazz got REALLY weird and this alb, recorded live in late ’71, epitomizes that. This whole affair has the aura of “community” all over it, and it was a decidedly closed-door community if you know what I mean. Lookin’ at the liner notes, the musicians actually look like NWA.  Stanley Clarke is a bitch on this album too.  A masterpiece, always has been, always will be.

37. Young, Loud & Snotty—Dead Boys (Sire, 1977): This album is important for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which it came out in the punk rock autumn o’ 1977, p’rhaps the coolest album-making year in rock ever. Not only that but these guys were the kind of formalizers of a punk rock style that, y’ know, wasn’t exactly the Ramones or Pistols. Once again, it all goes back to Alice Cooper and the Dolls and Iggy…and these guys when they were back in Cleve-town were definitely listening to all that shit.  Then they moved to NY and got decidedly nastier and their music reeked of a kind of punk-rock perversion that, believe it or not, would be an important step towards all subsequent slime-crawlers.  One thing it’s hard to impress upon the kids is how, back in those very very primordial daze o’ punk just how little ACTUAL punk there was…so trust me, an alb on Sire like this by a band who’d received a LOT of publicity (features in Creem and Rock Scene and mentions in Rolling Stone etc.) wasn’t going to go unnoticed. And what was not going unnoticed consisted of two things: one was a literal SUCTION CUP sound (thanx Genya Ravan) that resonated with mighty guitars stacked a mile high all going RK-DK-DK simultaneously.  Something like “Sonic Reducer” was the most absurd OVEREXAGERATED riff EVER, and that certainly inspired future super-rockers like the Angry Samoans and Meatmen. Then there was the sentiment, in which the Boys went even FURTHER down the non-politically correct track than the Pistols with stuff like “I Want Lunch,” which, once again to the tune o’ multiple gtrs all going RK-DK-DK, voiced actual woman-beating boasts, which was a step towards GG but NOT Jim Goad, if you know what I’m saying.  Wimpy, too drunk to fuck, too heroin’d out to be “professional,” dressed in rags, with some glam thrown in…ripped clothes, S&M, alcohol…a big record contract and yr name in the papers and yr still broke and living at the Chelsea Hotel. And punk rock was just a big GAS then, possibly even the coming wave (“new wave” in fact).  That was the world they inhabited in that historic fall of ’77-’78 before the bubble burst—and they made good on it by taking “punk” to heart and really letting the blood and vomit—and political incorrectness—spill. Actually, political correctness wasn’t even a CONCERN then (such a fuggin’ goddamn great era it was)…but it was guys like THIS who MADE it a concern w/ stuff like “don’t look at me that way, bitch/Your face is gonna get a punch.” Stiv was an Iggy imitator, while Cheetah Chrome did a pretty good Asheton/Williamson/Thunders…and since Genya produced, there was even some o’ that New York girl-group street-corner ethos in there. On a major label too, I mean, on WHAT level does this NOT qualify as one o’ the greatest “rock n’ roll” albums ever?  And Stiv really WAS the root o’ Darby and GG, not only for his snarl, but also the self-mutilation stuff.  Think about it this way…all three of ‘em are dead. What more proof do you need?

36. The Geto Boys (Def American, 1990): The Geto Boys basically accomplished for rap the same thing that the Dead Boys did for punk. Once again, another group who were hated, feared etc. The melismatic manner in which they delivered their spoken-in-tongues platitudes was like a hail o’ shrapnel atop Christgau’s bald palette. David Geffen got scared and dropped them from the label, but not before eight zillion copies had been sold.  The damage had been done, and altho’ the second and even third albs (that is, “official” albs, just for the sake o’ classification I don’t count their early Houston self-made stuff, which is kind of like their Rocket From the Tombs) were also OK, the group never matched the intensity of this opus, which was more or less the peak of Rap for ALL TIME if y’ ask me, but I stopped listening to the stuff in ’93…the Boys’ own “Bring it On” from Til Death Do Us Part was kind of like the swansong of all they’d laid down here.  By that time there were goombas in the group I didn’t even recognize, like Big Mike. Who the fuck was Big Mike? But I can tell you one thing…the Wu Tang Clang were definitely paying attention.  I dunno, these guys, particularly little Bushwick, just take such pleasure in their malice…another friend, Ventresco I think, once compared ‘em to the Angry Samoans for this reason. True, it reeks o’ the same kind of cartoonery…and these guys were mere kids when they rendered it. The spirit of hardcore? Sure. The spirit of wrestling? In spades. The rap equivalent of Be Bop, identity-wise as well as the way, once again, the WORDS themselves form a staggering rhythmic stream-o’-conscious? Damn straight. The best James Brown album ever made? Judge for yourself (they essentially used Funky People Vol. I as a blueprint for this whole alb so it makes sense).

35. Live at the Five Spot Vol. 1—Eric Dolphy (Prestige, 1961): Another ‘un that got trashed by critics when it came out for a myriad of reasons mostly having to do w/ its harmonic incongruity. People claimed that Mal Waldron’s piano was out of tune, and that the whole performance captured here was just a succession of solos—sped-up or slowed-down—by Dolphy and trumpeter Booker Little. There were also complaints that y’ couldn’t hear Richard Davis in the mix. But what really irked critics at the time was things like Dolphy’s weird reed work on stuff like “Fire Waltz,” where you can hear the glasses clinking in the same frequency as his horn.  The really amazing thing is, for all its supposed “discordance,” this album sounds almost mainstream nowadays—at least compared to later Dolphy ventures, not to mention later free-jazz forays by his contemporaries. Good luck walking into a bar nowadays and hearing a group of musicians play anything this spirited, however. Those days, unfortunately, are very much gone as jazz-as-we-once-knew-it farts its last gasp…

34. Free Jazz—Ornette Coleman (Atlantic, 1962): Talk about fuckin’ with shit! When Ornette came out with this granddaddy just about everyone quietly tried to sneak out the backdoor…not just the grannies who’d been appointed the guardians of good taste, but fellow musicians as well (Miles Davis among them). Critics were puzzled to say the least by this two-pronged attack that at first sounded discordant. But that’s only when you listen to the first layer as a layer unto itself like you would listen to, say, a Beatles album. Because what Free Jazz was made up of was a multiple overlap of fertile embryos…put ‘em in a fuckin’ pan and fry ‘em baby and that’s pretty much what Ornette-the-donut did. In other words, what Ornette introduced w/ this alb was the whole harmolodic argument where the notes danced along in different patterns but always synchronized…the fact he named it Free Jazz is indicative of the fact he meant to introduce something definably new and even had a name for it. Meanwhile, just about everyone on here became a luminary w/ in the ranks o’ the “new thing” in their own right, particular Eric Dolphy and Don Cherry. But few seldom tried an experiment this bold, which was basically having two separate bands play the same song at the same time!  No wonder the response at first was along the lines of JLEEEEEESTHLUSSS!!  A few years later, guys like Cherry (Complete Communion) and Coltrane (Ascension) used this as their springboard, but by then the resistance had been worn down.  More than anything else, Free Jazz deadened the blow so more craziness could flourish. 

33. Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane (Riverside, 1958): Miles was clean by ’55, and Coltrane got thrown out of Miles’ band for using (and picking his booger onstage—read the Miles bio…he was appalled!) From there he went to a 6-month stint w/ Monk—not exactly the place to get clean, but miraculously, Coltrane did, and in the meantime developed his whole sheets-of-sound approach which you can hear on this album, on the only three tracks this band ever recorded: “Ruby My Dear,” “Trinkle, Tinkle” and “Nutty.” When Coltrane rejoined Miles at the end of ’57, with all his faculties intact, it was these new melodic traits he brought with him. The result was the sublime soloing on Milestones and Kind of Blue, not to mention Coltrane’s subsequent career as a leader. Which means that, for a period of Coltrane’s musical development that didn’t last long, it was the catalyst for a lot.  Meanwhile, it also represents some of the last truly great stuff Monk ever did. A must.

32. Blank Generation—Richard Hell & the VoidOids (Sire, 1977):  Along w/ Marquee Moon n’ p’rhaps Talking Heads ’77 (and of course Patti), this album was the first indication outta NY that punk wasn’t entirely the thuggish goosery o’ the Ramones n’ Dead Boys. This was art-damaged noise, and the lyrics were “poetry” and the band obviously were a lot more seasoned than most o’ the Bowery Boys and Girls. Furthermore, their whole approach was to almost vivisect the body of rock…crazy rhythms abound and while not exactly a jazzer’s dream—mostly due to the band’s punk insistence which jazzboys, a boring lot, seldom can take—the guitar playing of Robert Quine was distinctly non-traditional and irregular…the funk-meets-no-wave burble of “Another World” and the upchuck-spewing roto-drone of “New Pleasure” were incendiary doses of molten guitar mayhem all delivered with a magisterial Frippian air.  Quine was just what the punk scene—and particularly a ribald like Hell—needed: older than most everyone on the scene, bald so the punkettes weren’t an option, and didn’t imbibe. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t truly rock—listen to the howling intro of “Love Comes in Spurts” for playing-guitar-like-ringing-a-bell. As for Hell, here was a man who truly hated everything with style and grace. What else can you say about the man who once wrote: “I saw what I had so/I got I got mad so”? And the man who gave the punk “look” its look? And the great thing about Hell is, unlike so many others in this scene, you can honestly say that the blade hasn’t dulled even now twenty-five years later. Blank Generation meanwhile still stands the test of time and does so with resounding clarity and vision. Indisputably great.

31. Master of Reality—Black Sabbath (Warner Bros., 1971): Sorry indie-rock geekoid intellectuals, and I’ll admit I don’t give two fucks about what Ozzy’s doing now w/ his matinee idol career and all, but this alb is the undisputed bludgeon-king o’ heavy mental albs, always was, always will be. Long before Raw Power was even around this was the first hint o’ TRUE bad-ass we ever got.  Zeppelin always seemed like a band for the girlies, but Sabbath was kind of a proto-Ramones in that they were, y’ know, creeps. And admittedly as a fat munghaired pre-pubescent cretin in the seventies, that was something I could relate to. Long before the metal hordes turned them into a cliché, Sabbath were the ugly death-face of heavy rock in the seventies, even grimmer than Cooper. For one thing, they were never played on the radio EVER.  Now occasionally a “classic rock” station will toss “Iron Man” into the rotation but back then it didn’t happen—they were a downer and strictly under-underground, even tho’ the populist hordes loved ‘em.  This alb made #6 on the charts, which is quite miraculous when you think of it.  The sound here is so infinitesimally THICK that it literally QUIVERS and RUMBLES and THUNDERS in bonging chords of violent reaction to the world around them…first two albs were of course nothing to sneeze at, but by the time o’ Master the sound—thanx producer Roger Bain (very underrated in the annals actually)—was as thick as, as Bangs suggested, “primordial slime.”  And Ozzy w/ that fuckin’ elfin yelp!  The rhythm section o’ Ward/Butler is the secret weapon, much as Dee Dee would be for the Ramones—and the actual SOUND o’ the Ramones is closer to the sound of this album than it is Raw Power. The guitars were muted, undoubtedly recorded fuzzy in the first place, overamplified and then mixed high…the result was the thickest wall of guitars ever.  The earth shakes for Herr Iommi on “Lord of this World,” “Children of the Grave,” and particularly “Into the Void.”  People talk about Clapton making the guitar “talk,” but Iommi was talkin’ alright, but people didn’t like what he was sayin’…which was a quantum dose o’ RK-DK-DK-DK! And Iommi was the king of the over-dramatic INTROS ‘least til Angus Young came along. I mean we’re talkin’ MUSICAL PUNCTUATION here. As for the God complex that they seemed to have around this time, once again future metal hordes—NOT the brightest bulbs by any definition—screwed the message up and misinterpreted it. Far from being Satan boys, they were actually Godboys! But it was in that hippie way of interpreting God to yr liking so that it was still OK to be a Godboy but have sex and do drugs. Which I guess is why Christgau gasped: “Mmmmnn! An amoral exploration!”  Even the album cover was like in this garish witchcraft purple-and-black deathmask style…can you believe they put the lyrics on the back ala Sgt. Pepper? What the Stooges did with speed, they did w/ sheer heaviness. And speakin’ of heaviness, their next album, Vol. 4, was no slouch either in that regard, but was marred for the inclusion o’ Ozzy’s maudlin “Changes,” whereas the so-called “ballad” on this one, “Solitude,” is pretty cool coz it’s depressing as shit. Play this album at 45 and you have the Ramones. Play it at 78 and you have the Angry Samoans. In a word: formative.

30. Eternally Yours—the Saints (Sire, 1978): The best use of horns since Notorious Byrd Brothers (unless Roxy Music or Bowie counts). On their first alb, these Aussies were hammer-champs. But by the time this one came along, they were also adding rougish mid-tempo material ala Kinks/Johnny Thunders to their repertoire via numbers like “Memories Are Made of This” and “Untitled” which would eventually pave the way for similar bumpkin-spew by average-guy rockers like the Replacements. Meanwhile, the super-rock had grown into an even tighter cabal of mounting tension and release—take for example, “Lost and Found” (later covered by the Samoans) where they used Stooges Raw Power dynamics (replete w/ requisite Williamsonoid shrapnel via Mr. Ed Kuepper) to voice a righteous form of pissed-off anarchy, a complete disdain for squaredom and order that is so essentially the sincere voice of INSURRECTION that it’s like an orgasm of your goddamn flamin’ heart everytime you hear it. With songs like this, “A Minor Aversion,” “No, Your Product” and the IMMORTAL “(I’m) Misunderstood,” you realize why you got into this stuff in the first place. And the really great thing is, everytime you listen to it, you RE-realize it! And as for predicting our current climate of apathy, disgrace, fear and oppression, these guys were seething prophets—they predicted it all (“the TV screen becomes your eye” Chris Bailey sings in “No, Your Product” and wasn’t he right about that one?) Prophetic, powerful…what Chuck Berry was for the fifties, and Bob Dylan was for the sixties (i.e., the fuckin’ SCRIPTURES), these guys should’ve been for the seventies.

29. Inflammable Material—Stiff Little Fingers (Rough Trade, 1978): Ever get the feeling the best years for rock ever were ’77-’78? Stiff Little Fingers, the best band ever from Ireland, were even more righteous about their anger than the Saints…and why not? Ireland in the ‘70s was a much more dangerous place than Oz, and more than anything else, this album really captures the sense of desperation of a bunch of young people who are coming of age seeing their whole heritage placed upon the crucifix. It’s not just a matter of losing your job or even your house, it’s losing hope, and that loss-of-hope turns into ANGER…which this alb absolutely bristles with.  The second track, “State of Emergency,” is one of the most pummeling examples of sheer rage prior to hardcore—and when hardcore started it owed a lot to this (just ask Ian McKaye). “Law and Order” is proto-hardcore and “Wasted Life” is perhaps even more epic, a completely fucking snarling statement-of-purpose that sounds like it had to be made, because its architects were gonna die in five minutes, all to the tune of furious guitars that gnarl and knot up into a ball of steaming hate…these Irish mofos were PISSED OFF to say the least. But they always keep it together punk rock-wise, and more than half of the tracks here are of the most exquisite Chuck Berry-with-Who-dynamics variety. This album defined U.K. punk w/ as deadly aim as the Pistols and Clash, and then detonated it with “Alternative Ulster,” the greatest marriage of rock and politics ever. Geldoff and Bono ain’t worthy to lick their boots.

28. The Clash (CBS U.K., 1977): With a rat-a-tat-tat the punk “movement” was borne: shorthair, buzzsaw rhythms, marching jackboots…the Ramones, even the ‘Tators, were still “hippies.”  Holmstrom once said to George Tabb: “Eeeh, everybody in those days was a hippie!” But the English punks branded a new less-frivolous face on the Punk Id/ID—the Who were a big influence…on the Pistols, Clash, Jam. Not the ponderous Preacher Pete stuff post-Tommy but the early art-school punk of the ‘Oo. The Clash is The Who Sings My Generation for a new era—and the jumpboys could all rejoice. From the first cigarette-flick o’ “Janie Jones,” this alb was a relentless juggernaut of tightly-wound aggression. The cockney was irrepressible as these guys pretended to be the voice of the proletariat—I say “pretend” coz Strummer was a Councilman’s son etc. But they proved to be rabble-rousers nonetheless and this alb was the punk call-to-arms summer ’77, THE first major BRIT punk alb (they beat the Pistols to the punch for the first full-length). A few songs (“Hate & War”) sound vaguely lame now, and hint of skidmarks to come, but IMPACT has GOT to mean something in a round-up like this one, and this alb was a catalyst for much mayhem to follow. As for jumped-up white reggae—as epitomized by their version o’ Junior Murvin’s “Police and Thieves”—these guys were absolutely the FIRST to do something legitimate with the form, as opposed to the usual Stones/Clapton minstrelsy. OY! God, they really snarled, didn’t they? And the rhythms were crazy cockney cockeyed…but it was concise, incendiary and it worked…Oh God did it WORK brother. It was nothing less the final tear-down of the whole world…but these guys were just laughing about it, and clicking their little heels down the street like a New World version o’ the Dead End Kidz, a virtual rogue’s gallery. No artist since vintage Dylan summed up the plight of the underclass w/ such accuracy—“Career Opportunities” waxed hopeless in the face of impending employment options, something a great deal of people could relate to in the late seventies (and now). Hard to believe CBS blew the US option on this one first time around—it screwed up the group’s progress because the first official US alb ended up being Give ‘em Enough Coke, which was a muddled-up affair as opposed to the streamlined genius of this ‘un. Meanwhile, when Epic finally issued this one it was two years later, and in an amalgamated version that rivaled Capitol’s hack-job on the Beatles in the sixties, or London’s on the Stones, for vision-lacking record-label idiocy. The American version is ABSOLUTELY inferior and thematically ill-constituted etc. Those idiots. They let the moment slip by—but the Clash more than made up for it with London Calling. Even the white-reggae crap of Sandinista is listenable these days. But when we’re talkin’ debuts, this might’ve been the most dramatic one of all time (Bollocks doesn’t count as the alb didn’t come out til the hype had almost already peaked).

27. It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back—Public Enemy (Def Jam, 1988): Even more important than The Clash. PE ushered in the era of rap-as-black activism and self-identity while at the same time changing the SOUND of rap from a corn-poppingly light form o’ jive to a labyrinth of maddening electronic effects—everything became a weapon: the words, the samples, the dress and the attitude. This was also the era when so-called “bad” behavior by blacks was becoming the norm, whether it was Tyson or Charles Barkley, both of whom PE pay tribute to here, not to mention Minister Farrakunt, and Chuck D and Flavor Flav were of course speaking the unspeakable—but it never fell empty because of the whole way the words tied in w/ the crazy rhythms, which, coupled w/ the samples of Farrakunt etc., made for a maddening collage…the TRUE prophecy of avant-garde fulfilled: canned noises, political blurbs, and the overlay of ATTITUDE everywhere, of no longer being a little smiley-face boy…it’s interesting listening to it today to note the proliferation of the word “nigger” had yet to occur in rap…I mean, Chuck uses it ironically once or twice but NWA would bring in that era—but this album was probably the last straw of rap’s first era, as opposed to the birth of the new one. But no finale has ever been more decisive—“Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos” is one of the fiercest pieces of music ever waxed, a brooding mantra about a prison-break that reeks of anger-to-the-brink. A few years later, blacks would riot in LA—on Nation of Millions you can feel the steam rising that would eventually blow the fuckin’ pot. There are so many other reasons this album is important…this was also the start of rappers taking on individual identities ala the Beatles—Chuck was Chuck, Flav was Flav, Professor Griff was Professor Griff, etc. (actually Run-DMC can’t be discounted in these stakes either). Let’s see, what else? Also the first rap alb that all ran together w/ out typical breaks between tracks, which gave it its suite-like effect.  They were erecting a whole new world, telling the kids “know what it’s like to be black, boiiie!” Unfortunately, the kids didn’t care—they never do. NWA came along six months later and usurped PE’s thunder.  But it was inevitable and that’s the way PE treated this insurrection…as inevitable. They got further into radicalism and activism, but they never “sold out,” which was their eternal oath. The great thing about Nation is, like some of those psychedelic albs from the sixties, it represents that great and all-too-rare by-pass where “art” and commerce for once intersected. “Important” with a capital P.

26. Black Beings—Frank Lowe (ESP, 1973): The last great ESP album. The last great tenor-sax album from the original generation of free-men (‘less y’ count Pharoah’s Love Is All Around, or whatever it was called, from ’75). And the harbinger of the next gen, as evidenced by the inclusion here of Wm. Parker, the pre-eminent bass-rumbler amongst the current constellation. Not only that, but Lowe represented the FINAL unscrewing of the axe-as-mayhem school…”In Trane’s Name,” the great 25-minute excursion that begins this album, alternates between melodic passages and atonal outbursts but flows into a seamless whole nevertheless.  The addition of Joe Jarman on alto gives this whole performance an almost Evan Parker feel—it’s lathe-like, which means it drills and screws around and enters your head that way instead of just blowing you over like so much of Ayler’s (or David Ware’s) work. Speaking of Ware, the language of the tenor being wrought by Lowe here is ultimately the logical antecedent to Ware’s own mayhem, but I dunno if even Ware ever approached the blinding atonality that occurs about 16-17 minutes into this opus. Very few electrified guitarists, with all their effects, have even been able to approach the whippering chaos of these notes—maybe Alan Licht at his best, and Lou Reed in the Velvets. As Lowe just whips it around the bend, the band tightens up and becomes more intensely focused in its thrusting overdrive. But eventually the blues rears its head once again proving that, while this song may have taken “Trane’s Name,” it didn’t do so in vain. The other two tracks—one, “For Joseph,” about Joe Jarman and the other, “Thulani,” written by him—are birds of a different feather: the former is probably the best solo tenor-honker since Sonny Rollins’ “Manhattan,” with Lowe making all kinds of bluesy moves w/ a few requisite skids off-kilter; and the latter is more like one of Ayler’s “marches” w/ a lot o’ aerodynamic hornswagglery the likes o’ which would characterize the Art Ensemble in the seventies. Either way, this is an album you simply cannot be without if you want to find out how real jazz severed its ties w/ the mainstream music industry once and for all and still lived to tell the tale.

MORE o' that ol' Joe S. Harrington blastitude:
Why Does Everyone Hate The Strokes? (Issue 11)
Top 100 Albums of All Time #'s 100-76. (Issue 11)
Top 100 Albums of All Time #'s 75-61. (Issue 12)
Marianne Nowottny: Weirder -- and Better -- than Cat Power. (issue 13)


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