Your Guide For Listening To My Greatest Albums List
- GREATEST ALBUMS LIST: RECOMMENDED LISTENING ORDER
- CHALLENGE RATING: 5.0/10
- 1) The Doors-The Doors (1967) [IN PROGRESS]
- OVERVIEW: Charged with a perfectly executed fusion of elements, the momentous and propulsive synergy of rock, blues, classical, jazz & confrontational, penetrating and theatrical vocal performances, The Doors' tightly focused, explosive debut staged scenes of hurtling, spiraling, onrushing climactic frenzy and introduced into rock truly dramatic theater. With sensational conviction, erupting mad screams and lost, dreamy cries, vocalist Morrison literally propels the songs into monumental dramas. He is acting out his fantasies, his nightmares, his psycho-sexual rituals with each song his stage, his venting of frustration, his epic, frantic rush towards death.
- (a) The dramatic acting of Morrison's vocal performance (especially The End, in which he stages the drama of Oedipus). His vigorous, intense force. His lost, dreamy cries (Crystal Ship, End of the Night). Notice how he literally propels the songs into action with the sheer will of his performance (Break On Through, Soul Kitchen, Take It As It Comes). (b) The emphatic climaxes of the drums and swirling interplay of the organ, and guitar. Each song has a propulsive, rhythmic force. Each song features an intense, unified focus, culminating in points where the percussive elements merge to produce a powerful climax. Collectively, the songs produce a cumulative, relentless series of climaxes, perfectly aligning to bring the album to its stunning closure. (c) The riveting momentum produced in the boiling hot stew of Light My Fire, in which mystic forces seem to interconnect, swirling around and catching the music into an unstoppable, frantic groove. (d) The dramatic close of The End, in which Morrison emits a free verse, stream-of-conscious lost highway of strange and evocative poetry, hanging in danger and suspense. The song builds like a growing deity, anxiously and unnervingly into a frantic, volcanic conclusion, with every instrument colliding into a burst of overwhelming violence.
- CHALLENGE RATING: 5.5/10
- 2) Zen Arcade-Husker Du (1984)
- OVERVIEW: The songs run the gamut of melodic hardcore, plagued by messy, lo-fi recording qualities, as if they were born from the wreckage of garbage dumps. It contains elements of jazz, psychedelia, acoustic folk, pop, and piano interludes, though these are mostly treated as just another piece of the wreckage instead of avenues for brilliant solo adventures. Mould gives ferociously vital vocal performances. The guitar and percussion tempos consistently play out at frantic, warp speeds, accumulating into defiant, freakish crescendos of overwhelmed belligerence. The album builds to a frightening, virtually masochistic emotional arc, especially during its mid-section, taking on the color of an epic nervous breakdown. It concludes with the monstrous, infinite cycle of Reoccurring Dreams, featuring swelling walls of shapeshifting feedback, a driving gale force of guitars into a gradual accumulation in intensity until the composition feels like it's bursting at the seams; a roaring, howling inferno.
- 3) Nail-Foetus (1985)
- 4) Blonde On Blonde-Bob Dylan (1966)
- OVERVIEW: The richness of the compositions, in which Dylan's harmonica wails and careens with wild spewing abandon, colorful organs flourish, drum rolls spin and dance about, and prancing guitar rhythms hiccup while frantic lead guitars spit and scatter, creates a colorful, spritely and blossoming wonderland for Dylan's sandpaper drawl to lament, depress and wither inside. These facets combine to produce a bright, wide-eyed, awestruck world in which the protagonist in each song seems to be blowing his mind. Poetic ideas and fairytale visions are exploding from his head as he sings of his wild observations. Like a real-time, live storybook, they are painting themselves (sometimes violently, sometimes softly) upon the physical universe surrounding him. Absolutely Sweet Marie is perhaps the quintessence of this, featuring a driving, repeating verse that keeps pushing itself past its own limits into a domino effect, as if the protagonist is gaining some exterior power, expanding into a superhero due to explode at any moment. It soon spills open into a crazed, free form harmonica and instrumental solo crashing between and against eachother, suspended and flailing in space, defying the laws of gravity. One of Us Must Know turns a depressing love story into a magical wonderland of both regret and majesterial climaxes. Just Like A Woman is a tender enigma with springing, flowering instrumental touches sprouting about throughout its verses and an arcane chorus to boot. The thickly layered, wailing, harsh blues songs (Rainy Day Woman, Pledging My Time, Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat, & Most Likely You'll Go Your Way And I'll Go Mine) take advantage of the most raucous arrangements, Dylan's sad and delirious vocals and his startlingly fevered use of harmonica to perform acts of bashful comedy, disgust and self-fladgellation. Visions of Johanna, Stuck Inside A Mobile & Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands continually end then recreate themselves in infinite cycles of stream of conscious verse, developing into epic, mournful journeys. Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands is so epic and funereal it seems the collapse of an entire civilization when infact it was about one woman. These lamenting, virtually free verse odes were simultaneously sad, nostalgic and monumentally triumphant. They were compositionally built like towers of Babel, as if Dylan was trying to muster every last sentence of meaning out of them in order to preserve their memory; embellishing epics in order to preserve faith in them as legends.
- 5) Geek the Girl-Lisa Germano (1994)
- OVERVIEW: Germano's vocal performance as well as the compositional aspects of the entire work are melted in total dejection. She floats there, meekly exhausted as if in the aftermath of a great catastrophe, stuck in a deep, resigned grief and paranoia. She drifts through a sea of swelling ghosts, always on the precipice of physical and mental collapse, wading through a mass of oncoming tears, burrowed by the glare and naked exhale of tragic weakness and vulnerability. The instruments move in slow motion, barely providing any assistance. Few of the songs muster much of a pulse or build much of a rhythmic foundation. They are listless. They are deep-seated states of mind, suspended there in time and space, magnified like the reflection of massive shadows. Majestic living nightmares. In a number of songs Germano whispers softly as if unveiling her secrets. She is revealing her hidden self, her diary. My Secret Reason dwells in nostalgia and tragedy, the aftermath, the danger of succumbing, the anxiety of the weak and the vulnerable. Trouble drifts in and out of consciousness, paranoid and confused. Geek the Girl builds into a momentum that never quite erupts, too sexually exhausted to be worthwhile. Cry Wolf is an exhausted plea of disgust and a haunted, lone cry of blame that carefully steps into A ...A Psychopath, the album centerpiece, a devastating, harrowing nightmare. Here Germano combines the deep despair of her violin with the backing soundtrack of a real-life rape victim, along with her soft, haunting vocals to forge a heart-wrenchingly vivid depiction of terror. This mid-section marks the primary climactic point of its emotional arc. The musical space of the compositions (mainly Cry Wolf, A...A Psychopath, Sexy Little Girl Princess & Phantom Love) quite literally opens wide and the work expands into a looming poltergeist, a massive demon or shadow staring down upon Germano, the frightened and lonely angel. Sexy Little Girl Princess erupts into a harsh, sustained wailing, in an otherworldly swallow, eclipsing the physical and baring only the psychological pleas and excesses of its perverts. Phantom Love is an uncomfortably ghastly session of the stranger as bedmate, dying in the slithery arms and agony of the unbeknownst. Cancer of Everything emerges with a confused, knowing death march, the tables turned upon a damaged psyche going to war with itself. A Guy Like You barely breathes. It is lying on the ground, alone, drowned in total dejection, overshadowed, denounced in loss, rejected. It is the quintessence of the whole album and the despaired climax from which it bares its' soul. ...of Love and Colors marks both a purge of sins and a reach to heaven, but within this great tears overflow, cascading on down, between searches of renewed faith and deep scars. Stars finally opens in a rush of great ecstacy and optimism, that still carries with it the weight of heretofore tragic demises. It is an exclamation of overwhelming, touching release, as if removed from a coma into the world, out from behind the mask of paranoia that haunted her so.
- CHALLENGE RATING: 6.0/10
- 6) Spiderland-Slint (1991)
- 7) The Survivor's Suite-Keith Jarrett (1976)
- 8) A Rainbow In Curved Air-Terry Riley (1968)
- 9) Fare Forward Voyagers-John Fahey (1973)
- 10) A Love Supreme-John Coltrane (1964)
- CHALLENGE RATING: 6.5/10
- 11) The Modern Dance-Pere Ubu (1978)
- 12) Desertshore-Nico (1970)
- 13) Karma-Pharaoh Sanders (1969)
- 14) Kick Out the Jams-MC5 (1969)
- 15) Suicide-Suicide (1977)
- OVERVIEW: Vega's vocals appear both in the foreground and in the background, sometimes simultaneously, always in a manic paranoia. He is passing through different states of consciousness, schizophrenia. He is passing through multiple dimensions. He is trapped inside an inner world, a sort of exiled "matrix". The arrangements are ultra minimal, completely redefining the rock band, with the machinations of Rev's keyboard setting the "scenery" (or lack thereof) for Vega's lost cries. They produce a world that is "blank", or soulless, in the iron grip of total fear, and that takes on the appearance of a virtual reality. The exterior world is there, but it is mostly occluded, hidden behind his neurosis, causing visions to alter, to take on the color of enemies, of inescapable ghosts. The keyboard personifies Vega's throbbing heartbeat, an alarm, a countdown of suspense, made only more real against the void surrounding him because it is practically the only thing alive--everything else is caught, motionless, between reality and surreality. Ghost Rider pounds relentlessly forward with a calculated, demonic intensity. The lack of dynamics only magnify the focused charge of its punk minimalism. Rocket USA begins the descent into total paranoia, opening with a series of pounding notes that personify the beginning of the protagonists' madness. It feels like a descent into a nuclear reactor. Cheree is a wickedly playful attempt at love. A cute little music box plays in the background as a continuous heartbeat joins in. It is so false it is interminably pitiful. The only one who believes in it, and intensely so, is the protagonist. It's as though he is pleading to a doll or a mannequin, or perhaps even more frighteningly, a little girl on the playground. Frankie Teardrop, perhaps the most startling, harrowing masterpiece ever recorded, documents the ghastly, homicidal acts of violence of the protagonist. Vega screams in a crazed agony. He is trying to release all his transgressions by committing the ultimate one, but in the end finds himself trapped in an inescapable, cold hell. Che bows and sways in a long, painful funeral march before the bottom drops out and the protagonist wastes away into oblivion.
- 16) A Genune Tong Funeral-Carla Bley/Gary Burton (1967)
- 17) Art & Aviation-Jane Ira Bloom (1992)
- 18) Astral Weeks-Van Morrison (1968)
- 19) The Velvet Underground & Nico-The Velvet Underground (1967)
- 20) Yerself Is Steam-Mercury Rev (1991)
- CHALLENGE RATING: 7.0/10
- 21) The Black Saint & The Sinner Lady-Charles Mingus (1963)
- 22) Bitches Brew-Miles Davis (1969)
- 23) Third-Soft Machine (1970)
- 24) Epitaph-Charles Mingus (1962)
- 25) Slow, Deep & Hard-Type O Negative (1991)
- 26) Lullaby Land-Vampire Rodents (1993)
- 27) Cobra-John Zorn (1981)
- 28) Uncle Meat-Frank Zappa (1969)
- CHALLENGE RATING: 7.5/10
- 29) Neu!-Neu! (1972)
- 30) Even the Sounds Shine-Myra Melford (1994)
- 31) Out To Lunch-Eric Dolphy (1964)
- 32) Cantos I-IV-Franz Koglmann
- 33) Afternoon of a Georgia Faun-Marion Brown (1970)
- 34) Lorca-Tim Buckley (1970)
- 35) White Light/White Heat-The Velvet Underground (1967)
- 36) Parable of Arable Land-Red Crayola (1967)
- 37) The Jazz Composer's Orchestra-Michael Mantler (1968)
- 38) Spiritual Unity-Albert Ayler (1964)
- 39) Streams-Sam Rivers (1973)
- 40) Litanies of Satan-Diamanda Galas (1982)
- 41) Ascension-John Coltrane (1965)
- 42) Free Jazz-Ornette Coleman (1960)
- 43) Y-Pop Group (1979)
- 44) Escalator Over The Hill-Carla Bley (1971)
- 45) Mu-Don Cherry (1969)
- 46) Well Oiled-Hash Jar Tempo (1997)
- 47) Irrlicht-Klaus Schulze (1972)
- 48) Rock Bottom-Robert Wyatt (1974)
- OVERVIEW: Arranged as a complete bout of stream-of-consciousness blossoming from a gradually upending kaleidoscope of succumbing emotional episodes and cast from a mass density of instrumental brotherhood, comes a deep exhale of collective oneness steeped in an overwhelming sense of universal tragedy. Wyatt assumes an inexplicable plethora of emotional identities, each magnified by an impossible sense of self awareness and clarity that, en masse, forces into existence an otherwise impenetrable subjectivity of the greatest integrity, character and conviction. In a communal mustering of forces that seem at once irrevocably consequential and sudden, unexplained phenomena, the work progresses as a prodigal event. A miracle unfolding. As a single entity where each aspect is interconnected to a greater whole, a single thrust, a singular emotion that encapsulates within it all emotions, all expressions, all viewpoints and beingness. A spiritual ascension that becomes increasingly disoriented, flummoxed and senseless the more awareness it acquires, the more profundity it emotes; thus mired in some ultimate dichotomy against logic. Sea Song, fraught with a narcotic, otherworldly milieu and contemplated by a profound, painfully heavy impression of sorrow, is a funeral march on a despairing search for answers. It magically erupts into a submerged, overwhelmed choir and then into the passionate, lost grief of Wyatt's lone, plaintive and confused cries as the keyboards strike repeating chords, haunting and ominous. A Last Straw floats oceanic, ascending and descending in eternal swim. It moves in an unorthodox, cyclic and rhythmic pulse as Wyatt calls out like a dying, drowning mammal, in between flexibly patterned, elastic percussion before the bottom drops out in a series of descending, increasingly dreadful, low notes. Little Red Riding Hood Hit the Road explodes in a sensational, vibrant show, a coalescing influx of multi-faceted liberation, the unfurling of states of being; of mind over matter; Buddhi. It is a confused, colliding series of transformations, infusing Wyatt into and out of existence. His crying falsetto wavers, climbing then falling in laments of regret, corralling with the momentum of the frenzied, swirling vacuum; slowing down, speeding up, and dramatically reversing direction into inverse semantics and back again before nodding off in troubled nonsense. Alifib/Alife opens as a miraculous rebirth, an ode to his loved one in naked solitude at the beginning of the universe. Wyatt casts tears of regret into sparkling constellations, sinking ever so slowly beneath a calm and drifting sea, farther and farther from her. Beneath his delicate, lonely keyboard strokes, his haunting voice calls out repeatedly in a sacred whisper of paralyzed and comatose cardiac arrest. He is praying to her from the brink of death, trying to bring himself back, trying to postulate their union back into reality just as he loses it. Above this, he sings a mesmerizing hymn from the edge of birth, mourning their distance and their failures in an aching poem of clumsy baby talk. As with a newborn to his mother he pleas to her in a heartbreaking show of eternal dependency. Drowning further, a gradual rise of calamity, confusion and suspense ensues. Wyatt repeats his words in a less formulated, dying stupor as narcoleptic fits take hold. Clarinet and sax figures contort and spit and squeal and squirm, anxiously contriving a strange, brewing storm of pent up intensity before spewing out a wrenching, overflowing spastic attack of uncontrolled, unmitigated abandon, bursting and then calming into a striking retort from his loved one while a haunting sense of eternal damnation seems to swell before them. Little Red Robin Hood Hit the Road explodes in a relentless storm of manic, increasingly frenetic percussion and instrumental fireworks while Wyatt repeats a mantra of prayers behind the screaming call of his keyboard play, before finally passing out into a heavenly backdrop of dreamy viola where an awkward stupor of unintelligible vocals drift about, hypnotized indefinitely in a void and godless world.
- 49) Not Available-Residents (1978)
- 50) Hosianna Mantra-Popol Vuh (1973)
- 51) For Alto-Anthony Braxton (1968)
- CHALLENGE RATING: 8.0/10
- 52) Dolmen Music-Meredith Monk (1981)
- 53) Seeds, Visions & Counterpoint-Ivo Perelman (1996)
- 54) Diamanda Galas-Diamanda Galas (1984)
- 55) The Magic City-Sun Ra (1965)
- 56) Sound-Roscoe Mitchell (1966)
- CHALLENGE RATING: 8.5/10
- 57) Faust-Faust (1971)
- 58) Unit Structures-Cecil Taylor (1966)
- 59) Atlantis-Sun Ra (1967)
- 60) Improvisie-Paul Bley (1971)
- CHALLENGE RATING: 9.0/10
- 61) Saxophone Improvisations, Series F-Anthony Braxton (1972)
- 62) Trout Mask Replica-Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band (1969)
- 63) Twin Infinitives-Royal Trux (1990)
KEYS TO SUCCESS:
1. I am interested and determined in finding out for myself what makes the albums great, and not in prejudging or snap-judging or "proving Scaruffi wrong".
2. I listen to the albums frequently and even if they don't at first seem very impressive, I give them many chances before drawing concrete conclusions of their ultimate merit.
3. When listening, I pay attention to the whole sound, each aspect of the composition all at once: each and every instrument and nuance, vocal(s) and all the changes as they're happening.
4. I roughly followed the recommended order listed above and I still cycle through the albums in similar order from time to time.
5. The vast majority of my listens are on very good sound systems or high quality portable players, and also at high volume levels so as to bring out the best and most impinging sound qualities and impact.
6. For highest quality, all albums have been acquired on CD (vinyl also recommended).
CHALLENGE RATINGS SCALE
1.0 EXTREMELY EASY
2.0 VERY EASY
4.0 PRETTY EASY
5.0 MODERATELY CHALLENGING
6.0 PRETTY CHALLENGING
8.0 VERY DIFFICULT
9.0 EXTREMELY DIFFICULT
10.0 VIRTUALLY IMPENETRABLE