THE GREATEST ALBUMS OF ALL TIME (Rankings 20-11)

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  • 20. KIND OF BLUE-MILES DAVIS (1959)

  • MY RATING: 9.2/10

  • MY FAVORITE TRACKS:
  • 1. SO WHAT
  • 5. FLAMENCO SKETCHES

  • CHALLENGE RATING: 6.0/10

  • GREATEST MOMENT:

  • CRITICS' LIST RANKINGS:
  • Amazon.com (USA) - The 10 Best Albums by Decade (1999): 2
  • Blender (USA) - The 100 Greatest American Albums of All time (2002): 48
  • Double Time (USA) - Top 100 Historically Significant Recordings: 9
  • Entertainment Weekly (USA) - The 100 Greatest CDs of All Time (1993): 3
  • Fast 'n' Bulbous (USA) - The Best Albums from 1949-64: 3
  • Gear (USA) - The 100 Greatest Albums of the Century (1999): 3
  • Rolling Stone (USA) - The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (2003): 12
  • Stylus (USA) - Top 101-200 Albums of All time (2004): 159
  • The Review, University of Delaware (USA) - 100 Greatest Albums of All Time (2001): 16
  • Time (USA) - The Best Album of the Century (1999): 2
  • VH1 (USA) - The 100 Greatest Albums of R 'N' R (2001): 66
  • Guardian (UK) - The 100 Best Albums Ever (1997): 14
  • Hot Press (Ireland) - The 100 Best Albums Ever (2006): 57
  • New Musical Express (UK) - All Times Top 100 Albums (1985): 21
  • New Musical Express (UK) - All Times Top 100 Albums + Top 50 by Decade (1993): 146
  • Time Out (UK) - The 100 Best Albums of All Time (1989): 17
  • Platekompaniet (Norway) - Top 100 Albums of All Time (2001): 51
  • OOR (Netherlands) - The Best Albums of the 20th Century (1987): 142
  • Berlin Media (Germany) - The 100 Best Albums of All Time (1998): 93
  • Rolling Stone (Germany) - The 500 Best Albums of All Time (2004): 16
  • Wiener (Austria) - The 100 Best Albums of the 20th Century (1999): 31
  • Rock de Lux (Spain) - The 200 Best Albums of All Time (2002): 20
  • Juice (Australia) - The 50 Best Albums of All Time (1997): 12
  • Rolling Stone (Mexico) - The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time (2004): 11
  • Showbizz (Brazil) - 100 CDs of All Time (1999): 16

  • CRITICS' RATINGS:
  • All Music Guide (USA) - Album Ratings 1-5 Stars: 5 Stars
  • Rolling Stone Album Guide, Ratings 1-5 Stars (USA, 1992): 5 Stars
  • Martin C. Strong (UK) - The Great Rock Discography 7th Edition, Ratings 1-10: 10
  • Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (UK) - Album Ratings 1-5 Stars (2002): 5 Stars

  • CRITICS' QUOTES:

  • ALL MUSIC GUIDE: "Kind of Blue isn't merely an artistic highlight for Miles Davis, it's an album that towers above its peers, a record generally considered as the definitive jazz album, a universally acknowledged standard of excellence. Why does Kind of Blue posses such a mystique? Perhaps because this music never flaunts its genius. It lures listeners in with the slow, luxurious bassline and gentle piano chords of "So What." From that moment on, the record never really changes pace -- each tune has a similar relaxed feel, as the music flows easily. Yet Kind of Blue is more than easy listening. It's the pinnacle of modal jazz -- tonality and solos build from the overall key, not chord changes, giving the music a subtly shifting quality. All of this doesn't quite explain why seasoned jazz fans return to this record even after they've memorized every nuance. They return because this is an exceptional band -- Miles, Coltrane, Bill Evans, Cannonball Adderley, Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cobb -- one of the greatest in history, playing at the peak of its power. As Evans said in the original liner notes for the record, the band did not play through any of these pieces prior to recording. Davis laid out the themes before the tape rolled, and then the band improvised. The end results were wondrous and still crackle with vitality. Kind of Blue works on many different levels. It can be played as background music, yet it amply rewards close listening. It is advanced music that is extraordinarily enjoyable. It may be a stretch to say that if you don't like Kind of Blue, you don't like jazz -- but it's hard to imagine it as anything other than a cornerstone of any jazz collection."

  • ALL ABOUT JAZZ: "Very few albums can match this Miles Davis's 1959 classic, often considered the greatest album in the history of jazz. Backed by an exquisite combo, this is an essential recording even for those who don't listen to jazz. With Miles himself on trumpet, Julian “Cannonball” Adderley on alto saxophone, John Coltrane on tenor saxophone, Wynton Kelly and Bill Evans on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Jimmy Cobb on drums, we hear every creative counterposition imaginable.

  • This recording was the beginning of modal jazz, and while Coltrane displays his free, unorthodox style and intense tone, Miles balances this with his contrasting smoothness and sparse phrasing. Cannonball colors Coltrane's sound with a rhythmically daring yet more melodic style of his own, characteristic of his traditional and ebullient phrasing. Bill Evans, whether accompanying or soloing, prefers a style more likened to the title of the album. He glides elegantly and profoundly on top of the driving yet laid back swing of Jimmy Cobb. Paul Chambers serves as the technically dynamic and harmonic foundation for the group, lending his exceptional skill to a tight rhythm section.

  • This album throws away conventional song and chord structure that had been definitive to most jazz artists, welcoming a new structure based on modes. More than a milestone in jazz, Kind of Blue is a defining moment of twentieth century music."

  • MY REVIEW: I estimate I've heard it nearly two-hundred times, yet it never seems to amaze, to act as a positive influence to the way I feel. I've lived through and with Kind of Blue. Like it has been for so many others, Kind of Blue was the album, that opened me up to the brilliance jazz has to offer. In a certain, special way, it can never be topped.

  • What must be the most astonishing thing about it, is that the album was created all on the very first take, with little, perhaps no practice, and minimal discussion beforehand. What's so impressive about this is how proffessional it sounds, how crisp, how elegant, how careful, how bright and beautiful and so full of life this seminal work of art is. It has a profundity to it that urges reflection on the most amazing, important moments in ones life and serves to expand upon their meaning. Kind of Blue is effortlessly brilliant, ceaselessly giving, unpretentious, selfless and irrepressably, magically moving.


  • 19. THE SHAPE OF JAZZ TO COME-ORNETTE COLEMAN (1959)

  • MY RATING: 9.2/10

  • MY FAVORITE TRACKS:

  • CHALLENGE RATING: 6.0/10

  • GREATEST MOMENT:

  • CRITICS' LIST RANKINGS:

  • CRITICS' RATINGS:

  • CRITICS' QUOTES:

  • MY REVIEW:


  • 18. IRRLICHT-KLAUS SCHULZE (1972)

  • MY RATING: 9.2/10

  • MY FAVORITE TRACKS:
  • 1. SATZ: EBENE

  • CHALLENGE RATING: 7.5/10

  • GREATEST MOMENT: Nearing the end of Satz: Ebene, there is a caucophony of phase effects, thunderous lightning strikes exploding against, into and away from eachother to capitalize one of the most stirring surges in "rock" history.

  • CRITICS' LIST RANKINGS: N/A

  • CRITICS' RATINGS:
  • All Music Guide (USA) - Album Ratings 1-5 Stars: 5 Stars

  • CRITICS' QUOTES:

  • ALL MUSIC GUIDE: "Schulze's solo debut is a masterful album featuring some of the most majestic instances of space music ever recorded, all the more remarkable for being recorded without synthesizers. "Satz Gewitter," the first of two tracks and the highlight here, slowly progresses from oscillator static to a series of glowing organ lines, all informed by Schulze's excellent feel for phase effects."

  • AUDION: "Wishing to push forwards his explorations of cosmic electronic music, Klaus left ASH RA TEMPEL and came up with this quite revolutionary album. Featuring no actual synths, but instead electronic organ, oscillators, devices and recordings of an orchestra conducted by Klaus himself. The resultant album strongly points at influences of TERRY RILEY and LIGETI, but was also a landmark revolution in itself."

  • MY REVIEW: Irrlicht is a marvel of electronic music, a symphony of the universe, a mind blowing expansion on the breadth of space, of intergalactic space travel, of precious discovery, of a distant galaxy or a new civilization. It captures the spiritual aesthetic of the Sistine Chapel, or secretly observing Johann Sebastian Bach play Tocatta & Fugue in D Minor, all alone in a great church. It is both intensely personalized, as well as universally stratospheric. It is graceful and magnificent and jaw-droppingly beautiful. It is a work of life, a soul. Its greatness lies mostly in how its drones of introspective emotion and tremendous phase effects expand in spaciousness outward from one sound, praying on the same or a slight variation of that sound, until it is climaxed to the fullest, and a maximum impact is achieved.

  • Satz: Ebene breathes and grows and evaporates its first 9-plus minutes. Its eerie drones hypnotize and the distant, mysterious melodies blossom from beneath it, building to an inevitable storm. Sudden gliding, thunderous, ferocious strokes of overwhelming laser beams expand to the breaking point, and then dissipate before being overtaken by the next. They clear entire planets, entire galaxies, lonely and omnipotent all the same. They build, one upon the other, gathering a storm of momentum for minutes on end, collapsing and crashing against eachother, against heaven, against hell, against the forces of life, against the supernatural, penetrating the birth of existence, ancient civilizations, infinity--before consuming too much for any being, for any dimension or space, until there is no where else to go, but...God?

  • Satz: Gewitter roars and terrorizes and growls and shifts in and out of focus. It's paralyzed by phase effects, by simultaneously living and dying, breathing and pausing. It can hardly contain itself, and it seems like a dwindling spiral, creating nothing out of something. It is just suspended there, defying the laws of gravity.

  • Satz: Exil Sils Maria is the essence of soundpainting, and enormous in its freedom. All the calming breaths, unspoken wisdom and audacity and scope of it fully coalesces and becomes profoundly reflective and deftly coaxes the listener into an observer of great discovery. It is here where Irrlicht asserts itself as a full-bodied masterpiece, as an infinity of spiritual insight and a marvel of this, our fascinating, beautiful universe.


  • 17. ATLANTIS-SUN RA (1967)

  • MY RATING: 9.2/10

  • MY FAVORITE TRACKS:

  • CHALLENGE RATING: 8.5/10

  • GREATEST MOMENT:

  • CRITICS' LIST RANKINGS:
  • Joe S. Harrington, Blastitude (USA) - The All-Time Top 100 Albums (2001): 92 Ratings

  • CRITICS' RATINGS:
  • All Music Guide (USA) - Album Ratings 1-5 Stars: 5 Stars
  • Rolling Stone Album Guide, Ratings 1-5 Stars (USA, 2004): 4 Stars
  • Spin's Book of Alternative Albums, Ratings 1-10 (USA, 1995): 6

  • CRITICS' QUOTES:

  • ALL MUSIC GUIDE: Featuring the Astro Infinity Arkestra, Atlantis reveals two very distinct sides of Sun Ra's music. The first consists of shorter works Ra presumably constructed for presentation on the Hohner clavinet. Not only is the electric keyboard dominantly featured, but also it presumably offered Ra somewhat of a novelty as it had only been on the market for less than a year. The second side consists of the epic 21-minute title track and features an additional seven-man augmentation to the brass/woodwind section of the Astro Infinity Arkestra. Tracks featuring the smaller combo reveal an almost introspective Arkestra. The stark contrast between the clavinet -- which Ra dubbed the "Solar Sound Instrument" -- and the hand-held African congas on "Mu" and "Bimini" reveal polar opposite styles and emphasis. However, Ra enthusiasts should rarely be surprised at his experiments in divergence. "Mu" is presented at a lethargic tempo snaking in and around solos from Ra and a raga-influenced tenor sax solo from John Gilmore. "Bimini" is actually captured in progress. The first sound listeners hear is the positioning of the microphone as a conga fury commences in the background. Likewise, on "Yucatan (Impulse Version)" a doorbell quickly impedes what might have been a more organic conclusion to the performance. The original issue of Atlantis was on the small independent Saturn label. Thus the composition titled "Yucatan (Saturn Version)" appeared on that pressing. When the disc was reissued in 1973 on Impulse!, the track was replaced by a completely different composition -- as opposed to an alternate performance of the same work. The second side contains one of Ra's most epic pieces, which is free or "space" jazz at its most invigorating. While virtually indescribable, the sonic churnings and juxtaposed images reveal a brilliant display of textures and tonalities set against an ocean of occasional rhythms. Its diversity alone makes this is an essential entry in the voluminous Sun Ra catalog.

  • PRICEGRABBER.COM: One of the first jazz releases to make prominent use of the clavinet, ATLANTIS (recorded between 1967 and '69) is another hallmark of bold experimentation in the Sun Ra discography. The album consists entirely of spare, surging numbers featuring, for the most part, clavinet, percussion, and saxophone as the only instrumentation. The minimal, exploratory feel of these pieces offers fine examples of Ra's marriage of futuristic, otherworldly sounds to African tribal cross-rhythms.

  • The centerpiece of the record is the final track, which includes the entire Astro Infinity Arkestra. Clocking in at almost 22 minutes, "Atlantis" creates an epic landscape of shifting colors and textures, with occasional bursts in dynamics leading to a swelling, volcanic finale. It is a tense, overpowering piece that presaged the Arkestra's forays into intergalactic territory in the early '70s. For its compositional map-charting and early use of electric sounds (this was Ra's first outing to use only electric keyboards), ATLANTIS is a landmark recording, and will be of interest to fans of experimental music, as well as Ra enthusiasts.

  • MY REVIEW: Eerie, awkward and unsettling, Sun Ra's masterpiece creeps through its first half almost pleasantly, a foreboding journey before all hell breaks loose in its concluding title track, Atlantis, one of the greatest single musical compositions ever produced. It is such an emotional wallop to witness, to be involved in such a shocking, sudden change in activity. Red alert alarms blink off and on, as if a massive spacecraft invader force has arrived to wreak total destruction on the entire city. Chaos rumbles, building and growing, cutting rhythms carve their blades, menacing and unforgiving, Atlantis explodes from its introduction with a volcanic outburst of erecting angular sheet noise, stinging like photon laser beams, erupting like nuclear warfare. Over and over again, newer, undeniable, non-negotiable, fearsome, hammering gauntlets are thrown down, total mass destruction ensues for the remainder, resulting in a work of tremendous, astonishing force and immense power, possibly the most terrifying musical work ever created. So sudden and engulfing that it swallows and evaporates what came before as if an unyielding tyrant, an overpowering, daunting deity that cannot be stopped, cannot be reasoned with. That its intentions are never even hinted at during the proceedings leading up to it, only makes the consequences even more startling and haunting. Such is the tragic and apocolyptic end for the lost city of Atlantis, a civilization that slept quite well that night, for it hardly knew what hit them.


  • 16. SAXOPHONE IMPROVISATIONS SERIES F-ANTHONY BRAXTON (1972)

  • MY RATING: 9.2/10

  • MY FAVORITE TRACKS:
  • 4. JMK-80 CFN-7
  • 7. MMKF-6 (CN-72)
  • 9. 104°-Kelvin M-12

  • CHALLENGE RATING: 8.5/10

  • GREATEST MOMENT:

  • CRITICS' LIST RANKINGS: N/A

  • CRITICS' RATINGS:
  • All Music Guide (USA) - Album Ratings 1-5 Stars: 4 Stars

  • CRITICS' QUOTES:

  • ALL MUSIC GUIDE: "Nonetheless, the extended performance that makes up all of the second side is one of the greatest things Braxton has ever put on disc, a demonstration of energy, versatility, manipulation of tone, and perverse musical logic that stands as one of the best solo horn performances in the jazz discography. And although the early recordings of Braxton seem to be marked by frustration and failure, this is a suitable follow-up to For Alto as well as an improvement, a great accomplishment in itself."

  • MY REVIEW: Extraordinarily powerful, endlessly fascinating and otherworldly, Saxophone Improvisations is a supremely unique, frequently astonishing performance from acclaimed saxophonist Anthony Braxton. Braxton produces improvised, yet calculated and mathematical structures that demonstrate an almost insatiable addiction to evolve meaning from the most staunchly organized passages and formats. These often take on a similar character as some 18th century Baroque music, as if the spirit of classical composer J.S. Bach is pervading the recordings; Braxton embodies this by drawing from similar themes as taken up in Bach's legendary solo violin sonatas and partitas. Throughout, he concocts devastating, desolate soundscapes of the utmost solemnity with outbursts that border on and occasionally surpass the most extreme emotional limits, becoming something alien, hypnotic, occasionally shocking and often bordering on the obscene.


  • 15. TWIN INFINITIVES-ROYAL TRUX (1990)

  • MY RATING: 9.2/10

  • MY FAVORITE TRACKS:

  • CHALLENGE RATING: 9.5/10

  • GREATEST MOMENT:

  • CRITICS' LIST RANKINGS:

  • CRITICS' RATINGS:

  • CRITICS' QUOTES:

  • MY REVIEW: Twin Infinitives is an emotionally wrecked odyssey, an extremely distorted plea from the depths of some foul, harrowing torture chamber, massive and dark, overwhelming and claustrophobic. If you can imagine the tripped-out grunge of The Rolling Stones Exile On Main Street caged in by Sun Ra's 22-minute masterpiece Atlantis, pepper-sprayed by Can's Tago Mago, and propelled by the forceful aesthetic of Coltrane's Ascension, than you can begin to understand the messy, jaw-dropping, disorienting experience that is Twin Infinitives.


  • 14. THE DOORS-THE DOORS (1967)

  • MY RATING: 9.2/10

  • MY FAVORITE TRACKS:
  • 1. BREAK ON THROUGH (TO THE OTHER SIDE)
  • 3. CRYSTAL SHIP
  • 7. LIGHT MY FIRE
  • 11. THE END

  • CHALLENGE RATING: 4.5/10

  • GREATEST MOMENT:

  • CRITICS' LIST RANKINGS:
  • Blender (USA) - The 100 Greatest American Albums of All time (2002): 97
  • Dave Marsh & Kevin Stein (USA) - The 40 Best of Album Chartmakers by Year (1981): 15
  • Fast 'n' Bulbous (USA) - The 500 Best Albums Since 1965: 302
  • Gear (USA) - The 100 Greatest Albums of the Century (1999): 95
  • Kitsap Sun (USA) - Top 200 Albums of the Last 40 Years (2005): 21
  • Paul Gambaccini - The World Critics Best Albums of All Time (1977): 43
  • Radio WXPN (USA) - The 100 Most Progressive Albums (1996): 21
  • Robert Santelli - Sixties Rock: The 25 Best Albums of the 60s (1985): 10
  • Rod Underhill (USA) - The Top 100 Rock/Pop Albums (2003): 13
  • Rolling Stone (USA) - The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (2003): 42
  • Rolling Stone (USA) - Top 100 Albums of the Last 20 Years (1987): 25
  • The Review, University of Delaware (USA) - 100 Greatest Albums of All Time (2001): 37
  • VH1 (USA) - The 100 Greatest Albums of R 'N' R (2001): 60
  • Guardian (UK) - The 100 Best Albums Ever (1997): 76
  • Melody Maker (UK) - All Time Top 100 Albums (2000): 82
  • Mojo (UK) - The 100 Greatest Albums Ever Made (1995): 30
  • New Musical Express (UK) - All Times Top 100 Albums (1974): 36
  • New Musical Express (UK) - All Times Top 100 Albums (1985): 24
  • New Musical Express (UK) - All Times Top 100 Albums + Top 50 by Decade (1993): 25
  • Sounds (UK) - The 100 Best Albums of All Time (1986): 9
  • The Times (UK) - The 100 Best Albums of All Time (1993): 43
  • Time Out (UK) - The 100 Best Albums of All Time (1989): 20
  • Uncut (UK) - 100 Rock and Movie Icons (2005): 72
  • Adresseavisen (Norway) - The 100 (+23) Best Albums of All Time (1995): 25
  • Expressen (Sweden) - The 100 Best Records Ever (1999): 12
  • Platekompaniet (Norway) - Top 100 Albums of All Time (2001): 69
  • Pop (Sweden) - The World's 100 Best Albums + 300 Complements (1994): 101
  • Schlager (Sweden) - The 30 Best Albums of All Time (1984): 24
  • Slitz (Sweden) - The 50 Best Albums of All Time (1990): 31
  • Soundi (Finland) - The 50 Best Albums of All Time + Top 10 by Decade (1995): 16
  • Aloha (Netherlands) - The 50 Best Albums of All Time (1999): 22
  • OOR (Netherlands) - The Best Albums of the 20th Century (1987): 50
  • OOR (Netherlands) - The Summer of Love, the Best Albums of 1967 (1992): 13
  • Berlin Media (Germany) - The 100 Best Albums of All Time (1998): 26
  • Max Magazine (Germany) - The 50 Best Albums of All Time (1997): 49
  • Musik Express/Sounds (Germany) - The 100 Masterpieces (1993): 15
  • Rolling Stone (Germany) - The 500 Best Albums of All Time (2004): 114
  • Rolling Stone (Germany) - The Best Albums of 5 Decades (1997): 43
  • Wiener (Austria) - The 100 Best Albums of the 20th Century (1999): 22
  • Zounds (Germany) - The Top 30 Albums of All Time + Top 10 by Decade (1992): 23
  • Telerama (France) - 50 LPs in the History of Rock (2004): 39
  • Plásticos y Decibelios (Spain) - The 80 Best Albums of All Time (2000): 26
  • Rock de Lux (Spain) - The 200 Best Albums of All Time (2002): 35
  • Alternative Melbourne (Australia) - The Top 100 Rock/Pop Albums (1996): 8
  • CDNOW (Japan) - 100 Essential Albums (2001?): 37
  • Yediot Ahonot (Israel) - Top 99 Albums of All Time (1999): 12
  • Epoca (Italy) - The 100 Best Albums of All Time (1988): 15
  • Mucchio Selvaggio (Italy) - 100 Best Albums by Decade (2002): 1-20
  • Viceversa (Italy) - 100 Rock Albums (1996): 1
  • Pure Pop (Mexico) - The Best Albums of All Time (1993): 10
  • Rolling Stone (Mexico) - The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time (2004): 11
  • Showbizz (Brazil) - 100 CDs of All Time (1999): 5

  • CRITICS' RATINGS:
  • All Music Guide (USA) - Album Ratings 1-5 Stars: 5 Stars
  • MusicHound Rock, R&B and Country (USA) - Album Ratings 0-5 Bones (1998-99): 4 Bones
  • Robert Christgau (USA) - Consumer Guide Album Grade: B-
  • Rolling Stone Album Guide, Ratings 1-5 Stars (USA, 1992): 4 Stars
  • Martin C. Strong (UK) - The Great Rock Discography 7th Edition, Ratings 1-10: 9
  • Paul Roland (UK) - CD Guide to Pop & Rock, Album Ratings 1-5 Stars (2001): 5 Stars
  • Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (UK) - Album Ratings 1-5 Stars (2002): 5 Stars
  • José Ramón Pardo (Spain) - The 1000 Best Pop-Rock Albums, Ratings 1-5 (1997): 4.5 Stars

  • CRITICS' QUOTES:

  • BARNES & NOBLE.COM: When the Doors emerged in 1967, the world of rock had never seen anything quite like them before. Their closest relatives were probably New York's Velvet Underground, who also mixed poetry with decidedly anti-flower-power rock. But where the VU came from a gritty, more urban context, the Doors were influenced by the freewheeling approach of '60s West Coast psychedelia -- mostly in that they were a reaction against it. On the band's eponymous debut, a dark, lyrical sensibility stands at odds with the LSD-tinted visions of the Grateful Dead et al., but the depths to which the Doors' penetrating, unsettling visions were explored could only have been possible in a community set free by the psychedelic revolution. With their lack of a bass player, Ray Manzarek's semiclassical keyboard flourishes, John Densmore's jazzy, impressionistic drumming, and Jim Morrison's surreal, iconoclastic lyrics, the Doors were virtually without precedent in rock 'n' roll. On The Doors, they used blues (Willie Dixon's "Back Door Man"), pop ("Light My Fire"), and even Brecht-Weill art song ("Alabama Song") as vehicles to express their unique sentiments. While the catchy "Light My Fire" was the band's breakthrough hit, it is the groundbreaking 11-minute epic "The End" that showcases the band in all its improvisational, poetic glory. Jim Allen

  • ALL MUSIC GUIDE: A tremendous debut album, and indeed one of the best first-time outings in rock history, introducing the band's fusion of rock, blues, classical, jazz, and poetry with a knockout punch. The lean, spidery guitar and organ riffs interweave with a hypnotic menace, providing a seductive backdrop for Jim Morrison's captivating vocals and probing prose. "Light My Fire" was the cut that topped the charts and established the group as stars, but most of the rest of the album is just as impressive, including some of their best songs: the propulsive "Break On Through" (their first single), the beguiling Oriental mystery of "The Crystal Ship," the mysterious "End of the Night," "Take It as It Comes" (one of several tunes besides "Light My Fire" that also had hit potential), and the stomping rock of "Soul Kitchen" and "Twentieth Century Fox." The 11-minute Oedipal drama "The End" was the group at its most daring and, some would contend, overambitious. It was nonetheless a haunting cap to an album whose nonstop melodicism and dynamic tension would never be equaled by the group again, let alone bettered.

  • MY REVIEW: Filled to the brim with sexual tension and swinging, violent rage, The Doors unleashed a storm of unbridled emotion and poetry in what is one of the all time greatest debuts in music history. Jim Morrison, one of the most controversial figures in rock's lifespan, emerges here as one of the most intense, propulsive and dramatic of lead singers. He explodes right out of his body into ethereal, delusional, and hypnotic passages both loud and soft, beautiful and outrageous, careful and reckless.


  • 13. ASTRAL WEEKS-VAN MORRISON (1968)

  • MY RATING: 9.3/10

  • MY FAVORITE TRACKS:
  • 2. BESIDE YOU
  • 4. CYPRESS AVENUE
  • 7. MADAME GEORGE

  • CHALLENGE RATING: 6.5/10

  • GREATEST MOMENT: The concluding lines of Slim Slow Slider, one of the most poignant and heart-breaking conclusions in music history.

  • CRITICS' LIST RANKINGS:
  • Fast 'n' Bulbous (USA) - The 500 Best Albums Since 1965: 3
  • Gear (USA) - The 100 Greatest Albums of the Century (1999): 49
  • Kitsap Sun (USA) - Top 200 Albums of the Last 40 Years (2005): 91
  • Paul Gambaccini - The World Critics Best Albums of All Time (1977): 4
  • Paul Gambaccini - The World Critics Best Albums of All Time (1987): 9
  • Radio WXPN (USA) - The 100 Most Progressive Albums (1996): 38
  • Robert Santelli - Sixties Rock: The 25 Best Albums of the 60s (1985): 25
  • Rolling Stone (USA) - The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (2003): 19
  • Rolling Stone (USA) - Top 100 Albums of the Last 20 Years (1987): 7
  • The Review, University of Delaware (USA) - 100 Greatest Albums of All Time (2001): 17
  • VH1 (USA) - The 100 Greatest Albums of R 'N' R (2001): 40
  • Classic Rock (UK) - The 100 Greatest British Rock Albums Ever (2006): 66
  • Guardian (UK) - The 100 Best Albums Ever (1997): 10
  • Hot Press (Ireland) - The 100 Best Albums Ever (2006): 7
  • Hot Press (Ireland) - The 100 Best Albums of All Time (1989): 9
  • Hot Press (Ireland) - Top 100 Irish Albums (2004): 1
  • Melody Maker (UK) - All Time Top 100 Albums (2000): 18
  • Mojo (UK) - The 100 Greatest Albums Ever Made (1995): 2
  • New Musical Express (UK) - 20 Near-as-Damn-It Perfect Initial Efforts (1992): 7
  • New Musical Express (UK) - All Times Top 100 Albums (1974): 63
  • New Musical Express (UK) - All Times Top 100 Albums (1985): 2
  • New Musical Express (UK) - All Times Top 100 Albums + Top 50 by Decade (1993): 15
  • New Musical Express (UK) - Top 100 Albums of All Time (2003): 83
  • Q (UK) - The 100 Greatest British Albums Ever (2000): 6
  • Q (UK) - The 50 (+50) Best British Albums Ever (2004): 11
  • Sounds (UK) - The 100 Best Albums of All Time (1986): 84
  • The Observer (UK) - The 100 Greatest British Albums (2004): 4
  • The Times (UK) - The 100 Best Albums of All Time (1993): 3
  • Time Out (UK) - The 100 Best Albums of All Time (1989): 12
  • Uncut (UK) - 100 Rock and Movie Icons (2005): 44
  • Adresseavisen (Norway) - The 100 (+23) Best Albums of All Time (1995): 11
  • Expressen (Sweden) - The 100 Best Records Ever (1999): 32
  • Platekompaniet (Norway) - Top 100 Albums of All Time (2001): 41
  • Pop (Sweden) - The World's 100 Best Albums + 300 Complements (1994): 19
  • Schlager (Sweden) - The 30 Best Albums of All Time (1984): 26
  • Slitz (Sweden) - The 50 Best Albums of All Time (1990): 10
  • Soundi (Finland) - The 50 Best Albums of All Time + Top 10 by Decade (1995): 49
  • Aloha (Netherlands) - The 50 Best Albums of All Time (1999): 6
  • Nieuwe Revu (Netherlands) - Top 100 Albums of All Time (1994): 26
  • OOR (Netherlands) - The Best Albums of the 20th Century (1987): 4
  • Berlin Media (Germany) - The 100 Best Albums of All Time (1998): 4
  • Max Magazine (Germany) - The 50 Best Albums of All Time (1997): 18
  • Musik Express/Sounds (Germany) - The 100 Masterpieces (1993): 26
  • Rolling Stone (Germany) - The 500 Best Albums of All Time (2004): 52
  • Rolling Stone (Germany) - The Best Albums of 5 Decades (1997): 4
  • Wiener (Austria) - The 100 Best Albums of the 20th Century (1999): 12
  • Zounds (Germany) - The Top 30 Albums of All Time + Top 10 by Decade (1992): 3
  • Telerama (France) - 50 LPs in the History of Rock (2004): 9
  • Plásticos y Decibelios (Spain) - The 80 Best Albums of All Time (2000): 41
  • Rock de Lux (Spain) - The 200 Best Albums of All Time (2002): 18
  • Alternative Melbourne (Australia) - The Top 100 Rock/Pop Albums (1996): 40
  • Courier-Mail (Australia) - 50 Defining Rock Albums (2005): 1
  • Yediot Ahonot (Israel) - Top 99 Albums of All Time (1999): 86
  • Mucchio Selvaggio (Italy) - 100 Best Albums by Decade (2002): 1-20
  • Pure Pop (Mexico) - The Best Albums of All Time (1993): 20
  • Showbizz (Brazil) - 100 CDs of All Time (1999): 42

  • CRITICS' RATINGS:
  • All Music Guide (USA) - Album Ratings 1-5 Stars: 5 Stars
  • MusicHound (USA) - Album Ratings 0-5 Bones (1998-99): 5 Bones
  • Rolling Stone Album Guide, Ratings 0-5 Stars (USA, 1979 and/or 1983): 5 Stars
  • Rolling Stone Album Guide, Ratings 1-5 Stars (USA, 1992): 5 Stars
  • Rolling Stone Album Guide, Ratings 1-5 Stars (USA, 2004): 5 Stars
  • Martin C. Strong (UK) - The Great Rock Discography 7th Edition, Ratings 1-10: 10
  • Paul Roland (UK) - CD Guide to Pop & Rock, Album Ratings 1-5 Stars (2001): 5 Stars
  • Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (UK) - Album Ratings 1-5 Stars (2002): 5 Stars
  • José Ramón Pardo (Spain) - The 1000 Best Pop-Rock Albums, Ratings 1-5 (1997): 4 Stars

  • CRITICS' QUOTES:

  • LESTER BANGS: Astral Weeks would be the subject of this piece - i.e., the rock record with the most significance in my life so far - no matter how I'd been feeling when it came out. But in the condition I was in, it assumed at the time the quality of a beacon, a light on the far shores of the murk; what's more, it was proof that there was something left to express artistically besides nihilism and destruction. (My other big record of the day was White Light/White Heat.) It sounded like the man who made Astral Weeks was in terrible pain, pain most of Van Morrison's previous works had only suggested; but like the later albums by the Velvet Underground, there was a redemptive element in the blackness, ultimate compassion for the suffering of others, and a swath of pure beauty and mystical awe that cut right through the heart of the work.

  • POP MATTERS: I was 17 starting fall semester at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, a quaint golden-hilled town in central California. For my first few weeks in the dorms, I had a bovine alarm clock, i.e., mooing cows that decided to test their vocal chords several yards from my window. It felt like, for my citified self, the romantic epitome of the bucolic. My cousin, the sort we pick up through marriage and divorce, lived in the area and offered backbreaking work, which sated my Emersonian philosophies as much as my penurious situation.

  • On my first day working with him, he loaned me Van Morrison's Astral Weeks concomitant with perfunctory life-changing comments and soulful statements. Words I would later term as "neo-hippie power". I distinctly remember taking it home and leaving it next to my stereo. Its strange acid-laced cover probably sat there for a week, collecting dust, listening in on my in-depth mumbles on Botany and dorm hall trysts.

  • There was a reason for my reluctance: "Brown-Eyed Girl". Van Morrison's doting love song, replete with poppy "tra-la-la-las", had tempered any enthusiasm I could initially muster for the album. I didn't want to hear sappy dross, certainly not while I meddled in such a, so I thought, highfalutin' state of academic bliss.

  • But then for some reason, maybe the cheap Rossi I drank one night from a coffee mug, maybe because I didn't want my cousin to call and it to come up in conversation, I put on Astral Weeks. I was mesmerized. It was absolutely brilliant in a sparkling, shimmering way. Yet, I would learn that its poetic obscurity and antiphonal jazz instrumentation had its own story, engendering the album with a profundity beyond what I gleamed upon listening.

  • By 1968, America had entered an inebriated bar brawl with its self. A sort of ego versus alter-ego clash of Godzilla proportions. Most historians make references to civil war when discussing the period, often limning how close the country came to entirely eroding the center until it wouldn't hold any more, as William Butler Yeats may have metaphorically contended. How chaotic everything became, like any retrospective glance, is fraught with left/right contentions and subjectivity. But the facts are there: the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, Walter Cronkite's critical evaluation of the Tet Offensive, the Yippie Movement, one hundred protestors in Chicago are cudgeled (another 175 arrested) by police, Nixon is elected president. A period of time Lester Bangs immortally called "one of the darkest periods I have ever experienced." Astral Weeks arrived in such a climate, with the American youth mired in bleakness and animosity.

  • The emotions Morrison conjures forth on attachment and loss offered a portal for the searching souls of 1968. Lyrically its eight lengthy tracks are thematically linked by reminiscence. As if turning back to a more genuine epoch would illuminate a more inspiring path. The opening lines "If I ventured in the slipstream, between the viaducts of your dream" reflect on moving away from reality to a place more steadfastly understanding and loving. Tracks like "Cyprus Avenue", "Madame George", and "Ballerina" are fauvist brushstrokes culled from Van Morrison's past. These are luminous places and people that serve to realize the humanism underscoring all experience. Revealing a moment, arguably a hiding place, of innocence to a culture slowly being destroyed by mounting political tensions.

  • Probably more noticeable to American listeners who purchased it, these were an Irish echo of Bob Dylan's outpourings on personal emptiness and societal misgivings. "Girl from the North Country" and "Ballerina" could be described as lyrical siblings. And throughout the album, you can place both artists side by side. Their potent poetics, marked by obscure references and inspired lyrical contortions, were drawn from the same well. However with one noticeable difference: Morrison wasn't the truculent, dour Dylan nor the bellicose at times boyishly satirical Dylan. Morrison came across, a product of his ostensibly otherworldly lyrics, with sensitivity as well as poignancy. Rage (or outrage) simply was not a component of Morrison's insights.

  • The arrangements, marked by strong interplay melding jazz philosophies and Celtic folk textures, completed Morrison's Astral Weeks earnest images. Stories and studio logs are sketchy about exactly how Astral Weeks ended up sounding the way it does. A reference in the liner notes mentions the recording process taking three days, a remarkably brief period of time. But it's the details that appear even more astonishing. According to accounts, Morrison had grown weary, likely from his time with Bang Records and Them, with the studio process and producers in general. He had fallen into an ornery streak, never satisfied with the ideas being considered.

  • There were conspicuous reasons for Morrison's uncompromising stance. In a 1970 interview with Rolling Stone's Happy Traum, Traum recounts Morrison sitting on his couch playing "Brown Eyed Girl". Traum appears impressed, making the rather innocuous comment, "it sounds more like Morrison does now." Morrison, over the course of the next few questions with Traum, discusses how his early music had been changed to sell records. A seedy side of the recording industry that made him become pugnacious about producers who "wanted a product". Morrison's volatility on the subject even served his songwriting well in later years, "Drunshambo Hustle" (Quote: "And you were puking up your guts at the standard contract you just signed") being one of many attacks against the pigeonholing pleasures of the recording industry.

  • So rather than cross creative paths with Morrison, producer Lewis Merenstein had him enter the studio alone. Here Astral Weeks begins to become more myth than music. With Merenstein at the boards, Morrison in one session recorded an hour of music accompanied only by his guitar. He then left. Merenstein subsequently brought in session players to augment Morrison's story songs. Which means the session players never once spoke to Morrison about the music. They never played for him, with him, or around him. An astonishing fact when you consider the hallmark of Astral Weeks is how perfect the band "interacts" with Morrison. How they sound completely synchronized, even to a level that could be explicated via parapsychology.

  • Of course, returning to the 1970 Rolling Stone interview, Morrison didn't entirely laud the finished product. He talks about the arrangements being too "samey" before finally offering the admission, "Though I am glad for what he [producer Merenstein] did for the songs. He did them justice." As a result of these conflicts and his own artistic ideologies, Morrison went on to produce 1970's Moondance and all of his subsequent releases thereafter. Forever turning his back on the Astral Weeks sound, for a more jump-jive blues and R&B approach. He would dabble in that feel, as on 1981's Common One, 1979's Beautiful Vision, and some of his spoken word tracks ("On Hynsford Street" from 1989's Hymns to the Silence for example), but never recaptured its lambent likeness.

  • Because everything came together and then somehow disappeared, one could argue Astral Weeks came to life much like John Milton's exhortation at the beginning of "Paradise Lost": through the muse's effervescent mists. Morrison, for his part, seems to realize this, and thus sounds forever reluctant to strip away the mysticism. He refuses to tidy up the album's ongoing lyrical ambiguity, the centerpiece being whether or not the character in "Madame George" is a drag queen. Morrison has never entirely discredited the idea, going so far to say in his 1970 Rolling Stone interview, "It's really whatever you want it to be about. I write from some place that I don't know where it comes from at times." Reinforcing the "great man theory", to use a literary theory description, that Morrison has returned to the muse both as a source of inspiration and explanation.

  • Which now, in my post-academic haze, reminds me of William Blake. But at any given moment it reminds me of a lot of things, a list that continues to collect literary detritus. With the alluvial bands of meaning becoming limpid personal strata as the years pass, Astral Weeks is important because it can move along a specific, personal timeline to collect such memories. The album's meaning remains socially and emotionally fluid, which ostensibly keeps it significant. Arguably must products forged from the divine, from Garcia-Lorca's duende (to reference Lester Bangs' 1978 comments), come with this built in timelessness.

  • MY REVIEW: I have fallen deeply in love. I am in love with a woman who I believe I've loved before, from some distant past. She seems to live life inside her quiet elegance, her artistry, her future, and our future. She is a painting. A living, breathing Monet. She's given me dreams of Venice, Rome and Ireland so distinct I can touch them. The bright, autumn leaves and billowing winds ascending through trees overhead, hovering above our slow steps beneath, crossing cobblestones, entering inside a foreign, far away world. Riding canoes to destinations only assigned by wandering eyes, and only those capitalizing on prior dreams. I want her there with me, her blue eyes and crimson hair, painting an entire life into a single experience. Infinity. Just endless depth and beauty, the kind I find when I think of her, and the kind usually reserved for incredibles, such as the paintings of Rembrandt, the Taj Mahal or, better yet, the overwhelming horizons of Johannesburg, its sprawling stars pasted upon a wide open, crystalline summer night sky. No matter how many times you admire it, there is always more to come.

  • I grew up following her footsteps, though I didn't know it until she stood there in front of me, gone from being a virtual apparition to a real person. At that time I was stunned, scared even. I'd never so thoroughly occupied someone elses space before, and I'd never felt such inexplicable allure. I'd never been so drastically changed inside a few seconds as the moments I realized who she was, and I'd never made so much headway into the mystical, the unknown, and the universe of another life, another being. I feel similarly about Astral Weeks. I understand Van Morrison and exist kindred to what he's gone through. His pain, his awe, his joy and his ecstacy. The looming events of interpersonal relations. The moments filled with butterflies, sporadically jumping then diving, into the longing pit of my stomach. It's all there. It's all mine. Astral Weeks is the only album I know that encapsulates true love, its aesthetics, its purity, its open-hearted fearlessness, and the incomparable damage it can thrust upon ones life were it lost or never had. It is the only album I know where I can exist with so little variation, and it is the only one I'd want to, as I am sure to discover her there as well, standing in the doorway inside a motionless, timeless pause, looking, wondering, and dreaming towards a reality previously thought impossible.


  • 12. LORCA-TIM BUCKLEY (1970)

  • MY RATING: 9.3/10

  • MY FAVORITE TRACKS:
  • 1. LORCA
  • 2. ANONYMOUS PROPOSITION

  • CHALLENGE RATING: 7.5/10

  • GREATEST MOMENT: About mid-way through Lorca, there is a solo performance by the players on keyboard, organ and guitar, and just after the organ chords crash, Buckley unleashes a monstrous vocal ascension. Not only is the title track probably the greatest vocal performance ever recorded by a rock artist, it is one of the supreme masterworks in all of rock history.

  • CRITICS' LIST RANKINGS: N/A

  • CRITICS' RATINGS:
  • All Music Guide (USA) - Album Ratings 1-5 Stars: 3 Stars

  • CRITICS' QUOTES:

  • CD UNIVERSE: "Buckley was far too restless of a spirit and far too pure an artist to be concerned with commerciality, and LORCA effectively closed the door on Buckley's already slim chances at becoming a star. Inaccessible, unconvential, occasionally just plain difficult, it was exactly what he felt like creating at the time. The five extended cuts mix free jazz, folk, rock and avant-garde experimentalism to an unprecedented degree. Buckley's superhuman multi-octave range gets a workout on the title cut's wide melodic leaps and bizarre intervals. "Anonymous Proposition" stretches it's gracefully ominous melody out so long that you have to pay strict attention to follow the musical thread. The poignant "I Had a Talk WIth My Woman" harks back to the hypnotic folk-rock balladry of BLUE AFTERNOON. Things come to a head on the frenetic, bluesy closer "Nobody Walkin'," where Buckley wails like a banshee over staccato electric piano riffs. His thorniest creation, LORCA is nevertheless one of Buckley's most rewarding albums for those adventurous enough to dive into it."

  • HEADHERITAGE.COM: "With the music you appreciate the subtleties, the guitar piercings, the sense of discovery, and preference of the journey as opposed to the destination arrival. And I have not even mentioned 'the voice' yet. On this album, particularly the opening two tracks, Buckley's voice has evolved into something more distinctive, singular and unique. Protracted groans, wails, hushes, elongated intimacies, controlling and sustaining single-syllable words, and expanding small, simple words into another language, another sound, making them mean more than you are accustomed to. He wanted to use his voice as an instrument, and amidst the discordant arrangements, he achieved his inception into transcending all influences, which was later fulfilled on 'Starsailor', which he regarded as his masterpiece (why has this album not been re-issued on CD). Indeed 'Lorca' was his gestation period, an inchoate chassis travelling unguided and accumulating, materialising and emulating in its path, which led to 'Starsailor'.

  • This whole album emits a disposition, an atmosphere, a feeling which is difficult to pin down and comment upon completely. But I get the sense that Buckley and his musicians sometimes are not implicitly sure themselves - all they can possibly express, convey and articulate is a sonic abstraction which is connected to those incomprehensible internal thoughts and urges, which they are communicating through their instruments, and Tim, through his eclectic, primal vocal flourishes. Also, it sounds like the pipe organ and electric piano are slightly alien to the player (which Lee Underwood, Buckley's guitarist, remarked upon), they know what sounds are feasible through broaching the instruments, and all of a sudden they could be drawn to it because of what they, and the group, are already playing - as an alternative instrument can command, suggest, evoke, guide blindly them into incorporating these sonics into the piece, you hear this groping and finding on some of the tracks (1 and 2 chiefly) - but this is what the album is about - discovery, visceral ambition, extemporizing the inner composer, experiencing the unknown, et al, which, unfortunately, is going to be passed on by alot of listeners. This album, and alot of music, needs to be recognised as the germinal phase upon first infliction. By this I mean it could tap into that part of your mind which renounces the arcane and nebulous, the sensation of the new and unfamiliar, disorientation, the bane of not knowing or having access to your many chartered routes of expectation. Some people are favoured to this - but do not admit it - why? - because either they cannot categorically define or expatiate it all - they feel out of their depth but are strangely compelled back - but maybe they go through this in private - some individuals have the language, they can elaborate on why they passionately favour something, but ultimately they talk in questions and indefinite comments. They just do not know - and this infuriates them that they cannot box it in comparable pertinence and division. If more people exhorted their fervency and enchantment about the things that they do not know (which is cumbersome, I know, because we repress our fears, we think twice about areas previously unvisited), around certain thinkers and visionaries, then maybe we might slowly plough headlong into an advanced realisation of said inscrutable's and curio's, people would think more about giving in to their unconscious abilities, fleeting thoughts, mercurial urges of spontaneity - those things they shackle and quash because of the perturbation of acceptance, the unnerving notion that they are treading water in a world of no land - nothing to link or associate with. These are the true joys of the pure, undiluted artist, that he or she can step out into whatever spotlight, under whoever's gaze, into anyone's eyes and ears, and have a persona he or she presents WHICH IS REALLY HIM OR HER, or nascently, THE BEGINNING OF WHAT HE OR SHE IS, OR WHAT HE OR SHE WILL OR MAY EVENTUALLY BECOME. Do not be a composite, a pastiche of the things that you want to be (its fine and essential to have starting points of influence, sure, but try to take it beyond a contagious facsimile), do not festoon others trivial predilections, life choices, idiosyncrasies, dialogue, appearance and ideas over yourself, or do not stategically hoist that veil up and down every so often to reveal that real, actual presentation of yourself, by giving temporal glimpses and teasing people, this will be an eventual decline, in myriad forms, in your life relationship.

  • People recognise establishments and formula all of the time, and those market-orientated, or devoid of any facet of substance or content themselves, shrewdly see this and adopt it, because these past or present conventions, achievements, et al, have been understood and scrutinised already - there is nothing left to think about, its all there "hermetically sealed", as Buckley would say, and doused in canon law. So those who administer these procedures and mainstream actualities are pre-scripting their lives already, resigning themselves to their love and idolatry of someone else and not to the paramount reason of love for themselves, what 'they actually possess' and 'not what they do not have', and primarily what they are - if they truly know - but it is better to never know and keep searching than to be a cut and paste distillation of falsity."

  • MY REVIEW: Lorca, perhaps Tim Buckley's masterpiece, is unfortunately more famous for alienating his fans with its avante-garde experimentation, than for its extremely rare musical merits. This album is a feat of extraordinary vocal gymnastics, the likes of which had never been heard before. Not even Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, two years prior, reached the outer corners of the universe Buckley touched here.

  • Buckley floats, engaged and disengaged, inside the flimsy walls of these compositions and the almost weightless, hesitant, gentle pulse of the instrumentations. His voice is a force of nature: strong yet delicate, powerful yet inviting and romantic, primal yet organic and beautiful. Indeed, the very life of the compositions literally die and gain rebirth by Buckley's near-seizures. This is intensity at its most deeply passionate and personal--so personal that it may seem distant for repeated listens, but it will eventually work its way into the patient and undaunted listeners' lifeblood.

  • One of the primary reasons this album works well as a whole is that it gains momentum as it progresses from track to track, and the order here is very key to its well-planned pacing and overall power. Its first two songs are in virtual slow motion, as Buckley extends each word, each syllable, each thought, hope and pause, into some imaginary oblivion, before inventing his next improvised passage. Anonymous Proposition sways back and forth, pushing and pulling against Buckley's desires and recants, all the while promising an inevitable storm that never quite arrives. But it's probably more a masterpiece due to this sense of anticipation, as the slow-building power it yields works a certain magic into ones veins. The opener, Lorca, is a total revelation, possesing an immense power, despite its manic attention to details and deliberate pacing. It blossoms into an otherwordly recreation of the modern folk song, as Buckley unleashes a whirlwind of vocal personalities, especially as the song eclipses its midpoint. It is here where Buckley forges on and makes a complete sweep of what can be said with his voice, and with any voice. It is the ultimate masterwork of vocal showpieces in all the history of rock music. I Had A Talk With My Woman exhibits a shy Elvis Presley influence, though Buckley characteristically annihilates any of his imitations, and turns it into a beautiful, poignant and rather climactic love song. This is also where he starts finding a more recognizable groove, and Driftin', even closer to a halt than the first two tracks, maintains a more straightforward nature, blooming into a sincere and powerful echo of the finale of Lorca. It's in the last, Nobody Walkin' when Buckley finally explodes uncontrollably, unleashing a relentless and invigorating storm, leaving the listener exhausted in its wake.

  • In 1970 Buckley stood alone as that rare rock artist, a man who virtually invented, or at least re-invented, the idea of voice-as-instrument in rock music. It's unfortunate that an album, and an artist, so obviously ingenius and beyond talent, remains so consistently overlooked and underrated.


  • 11. DESERTSHORE-NICO (1970)

  • MY RATING: 9.3/10

  • MY FAVORITE TRACKS:
  • 1. JANITOR OF LUNACY
  • 2. THE FALCONER
  • 6. AFRAID

  • CHALLENGE RATING: 6.0/10

  • GREATEST MOMENT:

  • CRITICS' LIST RANKINGS: N/A

  • CRITICS' RATINGS:
  • All Music Guide (USA) - Album Ratings 1-5 Stars: 4.5 Stars

  • CRITICS' QUOTES:

  • GROUND & SKY REVIEW: Desertshore largely takes the style introduced with Marble Index and refines it further. The results are a more accessible and personal album the second time around. With the arrival of such an uncommercial product as Index, Nico would pretty much be bounced around from label to label on an album-by-album basis for the remainder of her music career. First stop: Reprise Records and Joe Boyd. That Joe Boyd saw something of appeal in Nico and Cale's approach is probably no surprise, given that he produced The Incredible String Band's seminal albums of the late 60s. This music adheres to much of the same principles: intimate arrangements entirely self-played on acoustic instruments. At certain points, Nico's vocal cadenzas on "The Falconer" remind one of Robin Williamson's, and contrast the a capella hymnal "My Only Child" with the ISB's "Mountain of God" on The Big Huge.

  • I would probably bet that for the most part the lyrics on this album are probably freely associated ones, the phrases chosen for their sound quality with no deeper meaning intended. And yet, the Freudian in me can't help but offer some further analysis. I've always interpreted the album to be about Nico's relationship with her then 8-year old son Ari (a.k.a. Ari Boulogne, Ari Päffgen). I think of the documentary "Nico: Icon" made several years ago, which makes the case with pretty firm conviction that Nico was neglectful, ill-suited to the role of motherhood. Lutz Ulbricht (Agitation Free), at one point shakes his head at the fact that a mother could turn her own son onto heroin, and the documentary also reveals a disturbing anecdote that when Ari once fell into a coma, Nico's response simply was to record his heart beat to use for her next album. At the same time, it is also suggested that there was a very close bond between mother and son that could not be captured in words and anecdotes. Well, the lyrics of Desertshore seem to reflect these opposite impulses. "Janitor of Lunacy" thematically suggests overtones of an abortion or desired sterility. Its verses are structured like a warped, religious prayer, with Nico's peculiar rendering of English: "Paralyze my infancy," "Petrify the empty cradle," "Seal the giving of their seed," "Disease the breathing grief," "Forgive their begging scream." One also thinks of the album's photos of Nico wandering a barren desert, taken from the film "La Cicatrice Intérieure" ("The Interior Scar"), directed by her lover Philippe Garrel. The rejection of "Janitor of Lunacy" is contrasted sharply with the encouragement and love that seems to underly the parental-child relationship of "My Only Child," and the maternal devotion and attachment of "Mütterlein."

  • There is also ambiguity throughout the album that increases its mystery. Is "Mütterlein" Nico addressing her own mother (who died in 1970), or perhaps is it her writing wishfully through her son's eyes? Maybe a bit of both? On "Afraid," the most conventional but perhaps the most luminescent track on the album, when Nico sings "You are beautiful/and you are alone...", is she singing to Ari (i.e., again, an expression of both her love of him and rejection of motherhood)... or is she singing to herself (i.e., the glamorous model who never could shake her isolation from others)? "Le Petit Chevalier" (The Little Knight) features Ari himself, singing a nursery rhyme-like lyric in French, with an accompanying harpsichord. This one minute track always creeps me out listening to it. Even though I know Ari is still alive, it still makes you feel as if you're listening to the voice of a deceased child. Are his final lines ("J'irai te visiter..." which means "I shall visit you") intended to be tenderness or retribution?

  • HEADHERITAGE.COM: Produced by Cale and co-produced by Joe Boyd, the contrast of Nico’s clear vocals with her harmonium dream-weaving drone texturing throughout set the pace and tone of “Desertshore” from the very onset with “Janitor Of Lunacy”, a heretic canticle reeking of a sense of ominous and ancient decay. And these dry and undulating spaces continue to pass into most of the other five tracks that comprise the empty, imbued inner grace of the album. Sparse piano notes and clanging orchestral accidental noises rebound and operate as carefully placed chamber music cues throughout the monumentally slow trudge of ”The Falconer” and they spreading out behind Nico’s deep vocals and harmonium. Soon, a sweetly ambling piano riff of childhood memories come flooding back, but this is only a momentary respite from the gloom, soon shifting back into the enveloping main theme of darkness. On the wistful ”My Only Child” Nico’s full, sustained vocals are shored up by harmony vocals by Cale, Adam Miller and Annagh Wood with the only instrumentation present a barely noticeable single woodwind note. The album side is over after a brief vignette of faraway harpsichord performs in an abandoned nursery in ”Le Petit Chevalier”, which is sung in French by Nico’s young son, Ari.

  • Side two begins with the elegiac ”Abschied” (“Farewell”) as Nico accompanies her now familiar descending harmonium in German, joined by Cale’s viola as it scrapes, saws and swipes against the bow of mental ships rolling over stormy seas towards peace as the muted bass tones of the harmonium groan under their unearthly load in the background. A piano and viola accompaniment of serenity swells quietly behind “Afraid” a creation as beautiful and sad as Nico herself, rendered at the slowest pace of personal introspection. ”Mütterlein” switches back to Nico’s native tongue as trumpets fanfare distant behind Cale’s random piano clusters that bang out in behind Nico’s voice, as a percussively struck piano key (or perhaps, orchestral bells) are quietly struck to sound like overworked heating pipes clanking out an insistent rhythm in the distant background as though swiftly ticking off the passing moments. Cale begins to discordantly hit out more and more low piano embankments as trumpets swarm all around, blowing in squawking alarm.

  • But the air of disconsolation now is swept away with the lightly triumphant finale of ”All That Is My Own”, set off with fanfare kettledrums and Nico’s gentle harpsichord jingling joined by Cale’s unhesitating viola. Here she seems to have finally reached the end of her internal voyage across the burning sands of the dreams and desires of her life. Nico’s second, spoken voice edges out through a Leslie amplifier with the invitation to “meet me on the desertshore” as her parched caravan press onward towards the approaching and ever-greening hills. Cale’s viola swoops wildly in the background like a crazy pendulum, running over rumbling tympani outbursts and Nico’s unflagging harpsichord.

  • “Desertshore” is a work that for all its inner complexity flows ceaselessly with simplicity and purpose. After its release, nearly four years would pass until Nico resurfaced with the album “The End” on Island Records, backed once more by Cale and a cast of rolling musical cohorts from the label that included Eno and Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera. But never again would her music receive the effusive, European classical embellishments as it did so beautifully on “Desertshore.”

  • MY REVIEW: A stunningly beautiful work from the vastly underrated Nico, Desertshore is among the most affecting, lonely and poignant albums ever recorded. Its sound is a concoction of both the otherworldly and of child-like warmth, as Nico pains through each track with the simplest, most soul-baring lullabies, while her harmonium and John Cale's viola open up portals to another dimension, possessing most of the songs with a striking sense of loneliness amidst post-apocolyptic desolation. This combination creates an incredible tension between two extreme ends of stark, hypnotic, sterile beauty, bringing about the apparency of time stopping; of still, frozen lives, moments and actions in slow motion, giving Desertshore a cursed, reflective angle as if a calling card from the afterlife, looking back on a wasteland that was once the human race.
Author Comments: 

These are my picks for the greatest albums of all time. ONLY MASTERPIECES ARE GOING TO BE ALLOWED ON THIS PARTICULAR LIST (9.0 & ABOVE). I've found true masterpieces to be very rare in music, so these albums deserve special attention and therefore their own list. Rankings are based on my opinion of their merit. To me, the overall greatness of an album is primarily dependant on the four categories listed below. These are the factors I believe to be most important in making up an astonishing and profound musical experience, which is the ideal effect a work of art can have on one. My ratings are derived from a combined score from each of these four factors, in addition to the value I prescribe to each individual album track:

1. PROFUNDITY
-How powerful is it? Does it make me want to cry? Stare forth in awe? Is it miraculous? Does it give me goosebumps? Chills?

2. DEPTH
-How expansive is its content? As a work does it blossom and flourish, or is it just a stand-still of repetitive content? Does it make you feel as though you've endured a full experience by its conclusion, or is it insignificant and slight?

3. INGENUITY
-How inventive is it? Do you feel you are at the hands of great intelligence, subjectively creative ideas, or is it merely an artist or group just trying to get by?

4. CONTINUITY
-How consistent is the album's flow? Does it feel like an uneven hodgepodge, or is it carefully constructed for maximum climax and maximum impact?

All my song & album ratings are based on the following scale:

RATINGS SCALE:

0.0-4.9 NOT WORTH LISTENING TO
5.0-5.4 AVERAGE
5.5-5.9 ABOVE AVERAGE
6.0-6.4 GOOD
6.5-6.9 QUITE GOOD
7.0-7.4 VERY GOOD
7.5-7.9 EXCELLENT
8.0-8.4 OUTSTANDING
8.5-8.9 AMAZING
9.0-9.4 MASTERPIECE
9.5-9.9 SUPREME MASTERPIECE
10.0 ULTIMATE MASTERPIECE

To give you an idea of how I conduct my ratings, and the quality I am looking at here on this list, here are some examples of where I would rate some well-known albums:

0.0-4.9 NOT WORTH LISTENING TO
FOREVER-SPICE GIRLS

5.0-5.4 AVERAGE
BACK TO BEDLAM-JAMES BLUNT

5.5-5.9 ABOVE AVERAGE

6.0-6.4 GOOD
THE FREEWHEELIN' BOB DYLAN-BOB DYLAN
A HARD DAYS NIGHT-THE BEATLES
PABLO HONEY-RADIOHEAD
RUBBER SOUL-THE BEATLES

6.5-6.9 QUITE GOOD
THE BEATLES-THE BEATLES ("White Album")-THE BEATLES
BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME-BOB DYLAN
HUNKY DORY-DAVID BOWIE
IS THIS IT-THE STROKES
REVOLVER-THE BEATLES
THE RISE AND FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS-DAVID BOWIE
RUMOURS-FLEETWOOD MAC
THE VELVET UNDERGROUND-THE VELVET UNDERGROUND

7.0-7.4 VERY GOOD
ABBEY ROAD-THE BEATLES
BEGGAR'S BANQUET-THE ROLLING STONES
THE BENDS-RADIOHEAD
BORN TO RUN-BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN
DARK SIDE OF THE MOON-PINK FLOYD
LET IT BLEED-THE ROLLING STONES
LONDON CALLING-THE CLASH
THE MOON AND ANTARCTICA-MODEST MOUSE
NEVERMIND-NIRVANA
PET SOUNDS-THE BEACH BOYS
THE RIVER-BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN
SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND-THE BEATLES
THERE'S A RIOT GOIN' ON-SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE
WHAT'S GOING ON-MARVIN GAYE

7.5-7.9 EXCELLENT
ARE YOU EXPERIENCED?-JIMI HENDRIX
BLOOD ON THE TRACKS-BOB DYLAN
BLUE-JONI MITCHELL
DOOLITTLE-PIXIES
EXILE ON MAIN STREET-THE ROLLING STONES
FOREVER CHANGES-LOVE
FUNERAL-THE ARCADE FIRE
HORSES-PATTI SMITH
IN UTERO-NIRVANA
LOW-DAVID BOWIE
OK COMPUTER-RADIOHEAD
THE STONE ROSES-THE STONE ROSES
SURFER ROSA-PIXIES
YANKEE HOTEL FOXTROT-WILCO

8.0-8.4 OUTSTANDING
THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL-NINE INCH NAILS
FUN HOUSE-THE STOOGES
HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED-BOB DYLAN
IN THE COURT OF THE CRIMSON KING-KING CRIMSON
MARQUEE MOON-TELEVISION
PINK MOON-NICK DRAKE
REMAIN IN LIGHT-TALKING HEADS
ZEN ARCADE-HUSKER DU

8.5-8.9 AMAZING
SEE MY "AMAZING ALBUMS" LIST

9.0-9.4 MASTERPIECE
SEE MY "GREATEST ALBUMS OF ALL TIME" LIST

9.5-9.9 SUPREME MASTERPIECE
SEE MY "GREATEST ALBUMS OF ALL TIME" LIST

10.0 ULTIMATE MASTERPIECE
NONE KNOWN

Challenge Ratings are based on the level of challenge an album poses to the listener. By this, I usually mean the degree of experimentation found on the album. The key determining factor is: how much does it diverge from pop music, from what most listeners are accustomed to? Length of tracks and the entire album are taken into account as well. Agreement with these will vary some from person to person, but I've found are usually quite accurate with most anyone, having made these evaluations based on my own experiences as well as numerous recommendations I've given over the years. One can use these ratings to presume how much work he or she will have to put into "understanding" or "getting" the album. Conceptually understanding the artists' vision is key to enjoying it on an ideal level, so these challenge ratings can be helpful in convincing someone to "giving it another shot" while they remain unconvinced of an album that just hasn't appealed to them yet. I should also note that I have observed that the more one persists in listening to and understanding the most challenging albums, the easier it becomes to take on the next one. That said, if you are reading this list and are used to simple, radio-friendly artists such as Nickleback, The Beatles and others, then it is recommended you start on the album with the lowest challenge rating and gradiently work your way up towards the more difficult ones, step-by-step.

The Challenge Ratings are defined as follows:

1.0 EXTREMELY EASY
2.0 VERY EASY
3.0 EASY
4.0 PRETTY EASY
5.0 NEITHER TOUGH NOR EASY
6.0 PRETTY CHALLENGING
7.0 DIFFICULT
8.0 VERY DIFFICULT
9.0 EXTREMELY DIFFICULT
10.0 NEARLY IMPENETRABLE

I would like to thank Piero Scaruffi (www.scaruffi.com) for the immense help he has been in the discovery of many of the albums on this list. I would also like to thank him for his valuable insight in his reviews and through e-mail correspondance (both of which I've occasionally derived some of my own views). Additionally, I would like to thank all the other webzines/publications and their reviewers I've utilized in the CRITICS QUOTES sections of this list, as well as www.acclaimedmusic.com for their existence, without which posting the multiple rankings of many of these albums from worldwide "best albums" polls, would be a real chore.

Just something I noticed, but Saxophone Improvisations Series F is not the first album recorded entirely for saxophone. Braxton's earlier For Alto is, I think.

Thanks. Just in case you're right, I removed that part of the review. I also revised it some, adding more to it. You pointing this out drew my attention to the review, which I hadn't read in a long time, making me realize I wasn't real pleased with it. Now I think it's a bit more how I want it...for now, until I go through all of them and write FULL reviews (like the one on Rock Bottom).

By the way, do you have any plans to post some lists/polls? I would be very interested in these if you do.

I think I'll probably wait until I've really gotten more into jazz before I make a list, because as of now it would be pretty incomplete. I mean, there are like 3-4 albums that right now I would consider a step above everything else, but I really have no idea how I would rank the rest, because I really haven't listened to a lot of the albums very much.

I understand. Good idea.