Piero Scaruffi Notes

Tags: 

I should make an entire fansite about Piero Scaruffi, but I'm too lazy, so here's my page for Scaruffi commentary and links, mostly regarding music. I welcome comments, questions, and additions. See also my Scaruffian History of Video Games.

6.5/10 or Better Albums Available for Free Download
Snippets from my Conversations with Scaruffi
"Missing" Artist Profiles
Miscellaneous


6.5/10 or Better Albums Available for Free Download

American Music Club - Everclear [download]

My Dad is Dead - The Taller You Are [download]

The Brian Jonestown Massacre - Methodrone, Take It From the Man, Their Satanic Majesties' Second Request, Strung Out In Heaven, Bringing It All Back Home Again, Bravery Repetition & Noise, Thank God For Mental Illness [download]

Rapoon - Vernal Crossing, The Kirghiz Light [download]

Steve Coleman - Black Science, On the Edge of Tomorrow, Strata Institute Cypher Sintax, Rhythm People, Def Trance Beat, Tao of Mad Phat (no rating, but listed on best jazz albums page) [download]


Snippets from my Conversations with Scaruffi

L: Your recent movie ratings on the "Best Movies of 20XX" pages confuse me. Each page says that it averages the opinions of your favorite critics plus your own, but the "favorite critics" link takes the reader to a page of general review resources. Who are your favorite critics? And, why do you not let your readers see YOUR ratings?

S: Those are "my" ratings. The rule is simple: if i have seen the film, my ratings prevail; if i have not seen the film, i use the opinions of the critics that i deem more likely to have given the ratings that i would give. The way i chose the critics is my own rating: it depends on the film. For example, Belardinelli is a good critic, but he is too clumsy when it comes to foreign films. Erbert is a generic good source, but i would never trust only his opinion. Sight & Sound (which is not online) is a strong source for foreign films. The way i choose the critics to judge a film is very subjective, and usually does reflect my own ratings: when i finally see a film, i rarely have to change the rating too much.

L: Do you believe there has been a general quality decline in rock-related music this decade? I ask because, for example, you have rated 154 albums of the 1990s at 8/10 or higher, and only 6 albums of the 2000s at 8/10, and none higher. Is this because the decade is only half complete, it takes a while for the cream to rise (at least, to your attention), since the 2000s you've spent less time than in the past on rock music, etc., or do you sense a genuine decline in the quality of rock-related music, despite an undeniable incline in the number of music-makers?

S: It's an unfair question. The quality that you are referring to is about albums, right? The album in 1969 collected the best material of the artist (sometimes the best of many years). Today CDs are so cheap to make that musicians don't even rehearse before making a CD. So you are comparing two media that are actually very different: the album that went through a painful selection process and that cost a lot of money to make, and the album that goes through no selection process because it's so cheap to make. Needless to say, the former is higher quality than the latter... I doubt anyone will ever make a 9/10 album again. We are living the transition to a new medium. Then we will have to change the way we rate music. Sometimes i think i should already do it now.

L: I'm glad your opinions may change over time. I'm curious about the reasons for your changing opinions. For example, in 1998 you listed Ummagumma, Neu 2, Thaw, Daydream Nation, and Faust IV in your top 25 albums of all time, but now they are rated 7.5, 7.5, 7.0, 8.0, and 8.0, respectively. Why did your opinion change? Did you find earlier innovations that made these albums less impressive? Did you give another listen and reformulate your opinion? Did you read a review that changed your opinion?

S: In some cases it's just trivial mistakes that don't get corrected until someone makes me realize they are mistakes: Ummagumma: i've always been undecided how to rate it (the live album is 7/10, the studio album is at least 8/10). Neu 2: for many years my review of Neu 2 was actually the review of Neu 1. Thaw: i keep confusing Hole, Nail and Thaw. Daydream Nation: if this one was ever in the top20, i'm surprised. Faust IV: for many years i did not listen to Faust I, but when i relistened to it i decided that it is much superior to IV, so i replaced IV with I in the list (but that doesn't mean that IV is not worth it!). Most of this process happened when i finilized my book A History of Rock Music because i was relistening to a lot of albums in the right sequence, therefore i could create a uniform rating system. Please remember that the lists and ratings are not my main activity. I spend most of my time writing and listening. Once i compile a list, or write a rating, i rarely doublecheck it.

L: Let's say every album of music (all genres) released from 1951-2007 was recorded and released in August 1951. Which, then, would be the the most impressive albums? How would you even begin to judge them?

S: Same list as the current one.

L: Is your choice for #1 rock song for 2005, "Dubi Dam Dam" by Banaroo, a joke?

S: No, it's a masterpiece.


"Missing" Artist Profiles

Norwegian sound artist Leif Inge produced 9 Beet Stretch (Table of the Elements, 2006), which transformed Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 into a soundscape by digitally stretching it to 20 times its original length. The magnifying glass allows new sight into the landmark Romantic work, and the piece also functions as a whole new kind of ambient music. The method will be repeated easily and irresponsibly, but this is one of the few significant "cover" albums ever produced.

Belgian band Die Anarchistiche Abendunterhaltung's debut, Die Anarchistiche Abendunterhaltung! (1995, Jack & Johnny Recording), was original music but sounded like a Belgian folk ensemble covering sub-par 70s prog rock. In later albums, the band played mostly trivial vignettes of almost every genre imagineable: We Need New Animals (1998, Sony Classical), Life Transmission (2001, Columbia), and Tub Gurnard Goodness (2004, Radical Duke).

Max Richter's pop minimalism on Memoryhouse (2003, BBC Legends) and The Blue Notebooks (2004, Fat Cat) came even closer to the Classical era's formal perfection than Terry Riley or Philip Glass.

Manfred Schunke and Klaus Schulze (Sand) recorded Golem (1974, Delta Akustik), an album of creative but empty cosmic krautrock and folk. Ultrasonic Seraphim (1996, United Durto) collects Golem and other tracks from the era. The duo also recorded, as Code III, Planet of Man (Delta Akustik, 1974), a more successful study of soundscapes.

Birmingham post-punk band The Au Pairs debuted with Gang of Four-influenced Playing with a Different Sex (1981, Human). Their funky bite dissipated on Sense and Sensuality (1982, Kamera).

Canadian band Intersystems released Number One (1967, Allied), with John Mills-Cockell providing avantgarde electronics and Blake Parker, a bizarre narrative over two lengthy tracks. Peachy (1967, Allied) features even sparser electronics, with a couple brief forays into something resembling psychedelic music. Free Psychedelic Poster Inside (1968, Allied) was more of the same.

Dwight Frizzell released Beyond the Black Crack (1976, Cavern Custom), credited to Anal Magic & Reverend Dwight Frizzell. The badly spliced noise and jazz music recalls Faust, predicts mid-career Nurse With Wound, and might be enjoyed by Hermann Nitsch.

Helsinki underground supergroup Sperm (Pekka Airaksinen, Mattijuhani Koponen, P.Y. Hiltunen, Antero Helander, J.O. Mallander, Markus Heikkero) released Shh! (1970, O; r: 1997, ORFB), a powerful ambient album of guitar and tape effects, containing Heinasirkat and a heavily (and wisely) cut version of the earlier Korvapolikliniikka Hesperia.

Italian avant-prog group Opus Avantra wrote prog songs that drew from rock and every era of classical music on Donella Del Monaco (1974, Trident), Lord Cromwell (1975, Suono), and Strata (1989, Artis).

Galactic Explorers recorded only Epitaph for Venus (1972, Repertoire), which basically remixed A Rainbow in Curved Air as ambiance.

Underground poet and performance artist Steven "Jesse" Bernstein toured the Seattle music scene in the 80s. He finally recorded his poetry performances at a correction center in 1991, ala At Folsom Prison. His drug-reinforced mental illness produced tirades of insane modern poetry. The factors that contributed to his art also led him to commit suicide before the album was finished. Producer Steve Fisk scored the existing tracks with jazz and ambient music, and released it as Prison (1992, Sub Pop).

Konono N°1 (full name: L'orchestre folklorique T.P. Konono N°1 de Mingiedi) was a collective of do-it-yourself musicians from Congo who used likembé, voices, and junk yard percussion "instruments", along with home-made amplification equipment, to play Congolese folk music with the voices of techno and punk music. They began performing in the late 70's, but went essentially unrecorded until Congotronics (2004, Crammed Discs). Lubuaku (2004, Terp) recorded a live performance in Holland. Congotronics 2 (2005, Crammed Discs) was a compilation of similar music from many artists.

Catherine Ribeiro's voice swung passiontely between Nico's, Tim Buckley's, and Meredith Monk's on Catherine Ribeiro + 2 Bis (1969, Festival), with her husband leading a group called Alpes to accompany her. She could not match her debut on Nr.2 (1970, Festival), Ame Debout (1971, Philips), Paix (1972, Philips), Le Rat Debile Et L'Homme Des Champs (1974, Philips), Libertes? (1975, Fontana), Le Temps De L'Autre (1977, Philips), Passions (1979), the disco-influenced La Deboussole (1980, Philips), or on any of her later albums without Alpes.

British occult group Don Bradshaw-Leather unleashed Distance Between Us (1972, Distance) without naming any members or contributors. The music is a demented circus of gothic horror, psychedelia, and tribal drumming.

Swiss blues-rock band Krokodil debuted with Krokodil (1969, Liberty). Psychedelic influences emerged in Swamp (1970, Liberty), An Invisible World Revealed (1971, United Artists), Getting Up for the Morning (1972, Bacillus), Sweat and Swim (1973, Bacillus), and Classic German Rock Scene (1975, Bacillus). A collection of live recordings and demos was released in 2005: The Psyechedlic Tapes (2005, Second Battle).

The National Gallery (1968, Philips) by The National Gallery was a pop/psych interpretation of Paul Klee's paintings. The moderately interesting track is Fear Behind the Curtain.

Devil Doll (an Italian/Slovenian project of Mr. Doctor, whose identity remains a mystery), crafted 60-minute dark-rock melodramas by collaging simplified forms of The Residents' demented ballads, the magniloquent atmospheres of James Thirwell, and the 80s darkwave of In the Nursery, and Penderecki. A single copy of The Mark of the Beast (1987, unreleased) was pressed and it remains unheard. The Girl Who Was ... Death (1989, Hurdy Gurdy), limited to 150 copies - some of them inlaid with Mr. Doctor's own blood - introduced his epic prog-goth to the public. Eliogabalus (1990, Hurdy Gurdy) and Sacrilegium (1992, Hurdy Gurdy) further elaborated the idea. The Sacrilege of Fatal Arms (1993, Hurdy Gurdy), a soundtrack to a movie of the same name by Mr. Doctor, was a more symphonic but less innovative work, basically a collage of cliches from oddly juxtaposed genres. In 1993, Mr. Doctor began recording another album, but the recording studio burned down and the work was not completed. Later, Mr. Doctor agreed to rerecord Dies Irae (1996, Hurdy Gurdy) with the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra, an album which finally evolved his musical ideas into song-like forms. For the most part, Devil Doll made cheap collages of (a) 80s prog-rock, (b) piano-led interludes featuring Mr. Doctor's sprechshang, and (c) cut-and-paste 20th century classical music. Nevertheless, Devil Doll wrote a rough draft of the desolate, gothic, neoclassical litanies to be later and better orchestrated by Black Tape for a Blue Girl, who wisely left behind his prog-metal influences to invent a new music.

Groundation played catchy, jazz and dub-frilled roots reggae on Each One Teach One (2001, Young Tree), Young Tree (2002, Young Tree), and Hebron Gate (2003, Young Tree). We Free Again (2004, Young Tree) is a concept album, but the music is no different than it has been for 30 years. Dub Wars (2005, Young Tree) and Upon the Bridge (2006, Young Tree) are no better.

Emily Bezar sings an orchestral Kate Bush on Grandmother's Tea Leaves (1993, Olio), flirts with smooth jazz and prog-rock on Moon In Grenadine (1998, DemiVox), plays easy-listening prog-rock ala Rick Wakeman on Four Walls Bending (1999, DemiVox), and sings a cross between Europop and Tori Amos on Angel's Abacus (2004, DemiVox).

Willis Alan Ramsey's defined a decade of country-folk on Willis Alan Ramsey (1972, Koch), and remains among the most imitated artists in that genre today.

Between the Buried and Me wrote technically skilled and eclectic but artistically bankrupt progressive death metal on Between the Buried and Me (2002, Lifeforce), The Silent Circus (2003, Victory), Alaska (2005, Victory), and Colors (2007, Victory). The Anatomy Of (2006, Victory) is a particularly lame cover album.


Miscellaneous

Best albums not mentioned by Scaruffi: Don Bradshaw-Leather - Distance Between Us (1972), The Au Pairs - Playing with a Different Sex (1981), Catherine Ribeiro - Catherine Ribeiro + 2 Bis (1969)

I recommended these albums to Scaruffi. He wrote me and told me they are all on his to-hear list:

Dom - Edge of Time (1970), which melds space-folk, free-psychedelia, brooding dark ambient, and electroacoustic avant-garde into a softly harrowing vision of a dystopian, gothic future.

Krokodil - An Invisible World Revealed (1971), which splices together krautrock, hard rock, Third Ear Band, and country-folk in naive and fun ways.

Krokodil - Chemical Harvest (1971), which contains two inventive drum jams that draw from a variety of world, musique concrete, avant-garde jazz, and playful psychedelic rock.

Galactic Explorers - Epitaph for Venus (1972), which pushes Steve Reich and Terry Riley through ambient soundscapes (track 1), freeform jazz (track 2), and melodic noise (track 3).

Cosmic Jokers - Galactic Supermarket (1974), a singularly powerful blend of prog-rock, avant-garde, and Faust.

Die Anarchische Abendunterhaltung! - Die Anarchistische Abendunterhaltung! (1995), We Need New Animals (1998), Life Transmission (2001), and Tub Gurnard Goodness (2004). During their career, DAAU have blended literally dozens of styles in short jams.

TV on the Radio - Young Liars (2003), a dense and danceable marriage of post-grunge and barbershop.

Limbus 3 - Cosmic Music Experience (1969) and Limbus 4 - Mandalas (1970), stunning avant-world-rock.

The Shining - In the Kingdom of Kitsch You Will Be a Monster (2005) - Originally a Jaga Jazzist offshoot, The Shining reinvigorated their jazz with a muscular, industrial rock flourish in this album.

Luke -

Seriously, where do you come up with stuff?

I have a problem.

Seriously, I spend a shameful amount of time hunting down music I might enjoy. It's only recently that I've started to hear and love albums that Scaruffi hasn't already heard, since he's heard tens of thousands of albums.

But where do you find the obscurest of obscure music? What sources do you use?

I'll e-mail you.

Why's that? Seems like an answer that would interest lurkers on this thread (like me).

Because many of these items are unavailable through legal means.

Ah. Sorry!

To AJDaGreat in regards to music-tracking: soulseek. In my whole time using it, I've only not found 3 albums eventually (and they're still on my wishlist, and will probably appear eventually). I've downloaded literally thousands of albums off of it, and every one of them was at least slightly obscure. The key word though, is eventually.

Oops: Scaruffi has written about Limbus 3 & 4 in his history of rock, but created no profile for them. He's also written about Cosmic Jokers' self-titled debut, but not Galactic Supermarket.

Clearly, I've just begun my half-assed Scaruffian history of video games, but I'd be grateful for any input and feedback, especially if you can recommend games with important innovations.

Personally, I thought it was a joke. The video games ratings. I thought you were attempting to poke fun in an admiring, unspiteful way at Scaruffi.

Weren't you?

You don't really think those are the greatest video games of all time do you?

By this system wouldn't Duck Hunt be a masterpiece? Or Nintendo's Track & Field where you'd have to be parapelegic to not be able to defeat the "great" Cheetah.

This would mean Final Fantasy II would be better than the clearly superior FF III. Or, even better, as Scaruffi puts it so well in these two particular ratings:

Pablo Honey-Radiohead 6.5/10
Blood On The Tracks-Bob Dylan 6/10

I must say though, the albums he does like a lot are uniformly great selections, and fascinatingly eclectic. His greatest albums lists of rock and jazz are wellsprings of great albums mostly ignored by todays all-time best lists. I do think he puts too much emphasis on innovation as shown to a degree in the above ratings, with Pablo Honey (probably influenced some Brit-Pop bands who somehow happened to miss The Stone Roses) ranking over Blood On The Tracks (to my knowledge it had very little influence on future music). I love Radiohead, but Pablo Honey??? Pablo Honey to Blood On The Tracks is like Buffy the Vampire Slayer to The Godfather.

Well, it started as a joke. Then I decided to pursue it. What if somebody told a history of video games in Scaruffi's way, with innovation and creativity potentially more important than formal perfection and production value. (To explain formal perfection I like to quote Rosenbaum, who wrote that Sideways was flawless "in the same way that a Fig Newton can be flawless.") I think Scaruffi's approach is one valid way of critiquing the arts and entertainment product, though not my favorite approach for videogames. Still, I'm pretty sure nobody has written a history of videogames from that perspective before, so I decided to try it.

BTW, I would think Spacewar and Super Mario Bros. are the greatest games of all time even on my own terms, but the rest are sure to fall differently. And notice that I'm still missing most genres of games here.

Duck Hunt is merely one of a gazillion light gun games, and nowhere near the first or best. I have yet to research track & field games.

Very interesting point about Pablo Honey over Blood on the Tracks.

I'm glad it was meant to be funny because, while it may not have shown in my last comment, I did find it very entertaining to read. I'm not a gamer at all, but I used to be a hardcore videot when I was a kid and on into my early teens. So you're history and selections were really nostalgic.

I thought Duck Hunt was one of the first home light gun games, if not the first. Shows how much I know. And that track & field game used the much vaunted "running pad". It was revolutionary, the grouping of athletic ability and video game nerdiness into a whole that today stands as the original spark leading to the idea that video games became cool. 9.5/10.

I do actually agree that Super Mario Bros. is a masterpiece. As you put it, it's perfect like a fig newton. I think it would be great if you continue your video game history all the way through the inevitable blasts you'd receive for rating Pong as the third greatest video game ever, boasting a godly presence with a rare 9.5/10 over the inferior Metal Gear Solid and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, 7.5/10 each respectively. (:

Yeah, there were hundreds of light gun games before Duck Hunt. For a whole decade there were basically nothing but Pong clones, space shooters, and light gun games. If track & field is the first to use a running pad, it is significant, but that particular innovation only translates something already existing to videogames, and poorly, and simply. In that sense, it's more like Pong (without the industry influence), not like Spacewar!. You'll notice I didn't give Pong anywhere near 9.5/10. Pong is the most important game of all time for the gaming industry, but not for games themselves.

Super Mario Bros. is perfect like a fig newton in addition to being the first game to bring a highly complex, living, secret-filled, fully interactive, graphical WORLD for players to live in. That was the most important evolutionary change in videogames after Spacewar!, despite having precedents in Defender and Pitfall!.

This is great. I've never much considered even thinking about the importance of video games in relation to one another, but you've really peaked my interest.

As for the Pong thing I was merely trying to be silly, to poke fun at the Scaruffian system, but alas, you do it much better than I do, and far more convincingly.

Also, I just checked out your list of albums owned and I must say "HOLY @&@#!" Approximately where would you rank "Astral Weeks" and "In The Aeroplane Over The Sea" in relation to your jazz and rock albums only, if you were to do a top albums of all time list (you may have already, I haven't checked).

Also, what do you think of Nico's Desert Shore. I'm thinking about getting it. In your opinion, is it really the masterpiece Scaruffi ranks it as?

I couldn't begin to rank albums. I couldn't even compile a list of favorites. And there are probably a hundred albums I own that I haven't listened to a second of, yet. I enjoy both Astral Weeks and In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.

Desert Shore is one of the greatest "rock" albums of all times. This one is an easy call for me, along with Faust, Third, and Trout Mask Replica.

Thanks, I'll check it out. Your recommendation is at stake here. (:

Another thing: in your "recommended game" do you mind if I review Sung Tongs instead of the Mysterious Production of Eggs? Sung Tongs was one of the last albums I purchased (over a month ago, uggghhh). I have been seriously pressed for cash lately, and have no room to purchase that Andrew Bird album, nor the time to travel and go listen to it at the music store. It's been a rough month or two.

I did not recommend Sung Tongs, nor did I recommend Desert Short personally to you. If you can't get to Mysterious Production of Eggs, though, just don't, and don't worry about it!

Okay. If I do happen to get around to Andrew Bird I'll reply in your post, it just might be a bit longer.

By the way, I caught a listen to 30 second snippets of Desert Shore and found what little I heard to be pretty amazing. I can easily see why you cherish it so much. And Scaruffi too!

You've no idea how much I enjoyed your dead-on take of video games Scaruffi-style; it was both funny and informative, and that ain't easy to pull off. Kudos!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Thanks! Stay tuned: more affectionate Scaruffianism is on the way!

Google's got a pretty funny April Fool's joke up.

Second to scaruffi.com in reviews for really interesting music is Aural Innovations. Alas, almost everything they review is extremely rare.

thanks for posting those emails. i'm a bit shy about asking him anything these days.

reading this makes me wish he wrote a blog, because even his offhanded comments are eye-openers.

did you give him that summary of lief inge?

there's a paragraph in the letters section where it sounds like he had trout mask replica as an 8/10 at one point.

when he changed the faust album in the top 25 from IV to I he made a comment in the updates section that he was tempted to put it at #1 (which i actually wish he did!). that's the same time that 'miss fortune' was put at number 2 on the all time songs list.

Yeah, a Scaruffi blog would rule. I've not sent him the Leif Inge profile. I'll just keep adding profiles for artists I wish he hasn't covered. Maybe he'll profile an artist after I do, and I can compare his opinion to my own opinion (since my other opinions are undoubtedly influenced by his writings).

that Igor Wakhevitch boxed set was recommended to him already by none other than Mike Gira

Docteur Faust might have a chance at a 7/10. I doubt the others would

Still, i'm surprised he doesn't have a profile of him yet.

What do you think of TV on the Radio, especially Young Liars?

the guy at fastnbulbous.com loves tv on the radio. do you know his site? that's where i first heard about them.

i'll need another listen to Young Liars, then i'll get back to you. it didn't make much of an impression the first time.

there are dozens of new critically acclaimed bands that i've heard only half-heartedly

visiting fastnbulbous often leads to despair for me.

i listen to a lot of music, but that guy just amazes me with his knowledge.

Thanks, fastnbulbous looks like a great resource, though not as close to my tastes as Scaruffi. Trouser Press looks good, too.

Trouser Press and Scruffy are my two bibles these days.

I rarely agree with the Fastnbulbous guy, but I do enjoy his perspective on rock history. Some of his rants closely relate to my own feelings.

Any in particular? I'm having a hard time finding rants that resonate.

I'm not sure anymore! Perhaps I was thinking of another site.

I do like that he focuses on promoting albums that never received the attention they deserved the first time around.

Hate his ratings system.

Trouser Press needs lists or genre summaries or something. I don't even know where to begin just browsing artist names.

Heard it again. Not bad! It's a very dense sound. It works on about four different levels. Definitely a rare feat.

What's their other stuff like?

More albums should be eps like this.

Indeed. Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes is even more danceable and has lots of crap filler, imo. Their 2006 release, Return to Cookie Mountain, is another disappointment to me. I was hoping they'd do more like "Young Liars," but they understandably went the way of "Staring at the Sun."

Lol. Scaruffi has such power over me. After reading his review of Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes, I relistened to it and liked it much more than before. Then, I listened to Return to Cookie Mountain again and liked it even better than Desperate Youth!

A snippet of one of your emails has been expanded and tacked onto the preface page of the history of rock.

Thanks for the heads up! Actually, that might be the exact answer he gave me. I snipped it for length when quoting him on this page.

Another one that Scaruffi doesn't have a profile of is Gillian Welch. Her Time (The Revelator) impressed a lot of people. I'm still undecided about it. I doubt Scaruffi would like it much.

About the overrated list, I'd have to disagree about Bruce Springsteen and Red House Painters. I like Foetus, but he doesn't rank with Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa, as Scaruffi says. Why do you think he overrates Tool? The highest rating he's given them is 7.5/10, which isn't that great.
Personally, I think he overrates Royal Trux, Cramps, Dream Syndicate and the Soft Boys.

Tool has three albums scoring 7 or 7.5. They should have 0 albums above a score of 6.0. They're Rush for the grunge generation, only more boring. I've only heard one album each by Dream Syndicate and The Soft Boys, so I can't tell if he's overrating the artist generally, or just that one album.

AllOfMp3s Greatest 500 Albums is about as boring a list as I could think up.

I'm pretty sure that is just a copy of the Rolling Stone list. It may be more boring than most lists, but I wager it is probably also more accurate.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Them's fightin' words, ya damned populist. :)

Of course, you are correct, since most lists are terribly narrow in focus and otherwise biased. But you'd better not be implying that Rolling Stone's list is better than mine. :)

Nope, no implication whatsoever. I dig both lists; they certainly serve somewhat separate functions in my world!

I may well be the only populist in the world with Trout Mask Replica in his top ten... :)

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Luke, am I crazy or didn't you have a list of Scaruffi's Greatest Paintings list with links to images at some point? Does that list still exist? Thanks.

Yes, but most of the images have disappeared from the free servers I hosted them on, I didn't keep the originals, and I'm not going to track them all down again, so I archived it.

Lame.

By the way, I got Irrlicht today.

Don't interpret my silence as disinterest in your reaction...

Sorry, I haven't really had the time lately to follow what Dr. AfterHours prescribed. His suggestion of listening to it 10 times in 10 days proved unfeasible, as I am so lame I have only listened to it 7 times since I picked it up. I also haven't had time to listen to the tracks in your Irrlicht appreciation post. I wish we had talked about this earlier in the summer. So I'll probably have to listen to it more before I have achieved the exposure AfterHours wanted, as long as it's not too late now that my listens have been so spaced out.

If either you or he want to make any comments that you think I should know to fully appreciate the album, not just from a musical history/influence standpoint but from an emotional and artistic standpoint, I'd love to read them.

By your post, I am guessing that the album isn't really coming around for you?

To me, the key to appreciating Irrlicht has little or nothing to do with understanding its influences, its pedigree, innovation or anything of the sort. I could care less of these things, and infact hardly have a clue of these datums with regards to Irrlicht myself, but still find it to be among the most profound, rewarding and fascinating musical experiences in all of "rock", and even since the likes of composers Brahms or Beethoven.

My first questions would be, have you listened to it loud and/or on headphones? When you first start listening to it, and until you get that sensation of falling in love with it, I would personally suggest that you listen to it rather loud while doing something else--something not too distracting, such as being on the internet. Even better to me would be listening to it while walking around and doing something, perhaps walking somewhere to run an errand--again not too distracting, like cleaning up your room/house. Perhaps these suggestions sound irrelevant, but I honestly believe they can be vital towards becoming acquainted with an album like Irrlicht. And then gradually over a course of 5 to 10 listens, work your way into listening to it still and in silence. You may want to start doing it before you go to bed, but try not to wait until you're too tired. When you start loving the 3rd track (which is the final key towards admiring it as a whole), you'll be able to listen to it more comfortably, however you want. Its 1st and 3rd tracks are quite long and can easily become tedious if one tackles them impatiently, so I've experienced when loaning the album to others, that it can be very key to overcome this by doing the above.

Most of all I think the key to "getting" Irrlicht, and this is also the common denominator for getting all music and especially that of the very greatest albums, especially on Scaruffi's lists, especially jazz, is to follow the emotion, and not the structure or melody or anything else. Become accustomed to listening to Irrlicht by listening to and becoming transfixed by the emotion being exhibited by the artist. Most of today's music listeners have been trained by radio and pop music to listen to music a certain way, by certain stable rules, a way that leaves them completely unprepared to hear music outside the box.

Irrlicht is an intergalactic marvel, a symphony of the universe, a mind blowing expansion on the breadth of space, of space travel, of precious discovery, of a distant galaxy or a new civilization. It is the most spacious and patient scenes from 2001: A Space Odyssey magnified. It is staring at God. It is captured in awe at the wonder and significance of the Sisting Chapel, or something as miniscule in comparison as being trapped in a room alone with Da Vinci's Mona Lisa, or watching Bach play Tocatta & Fugue in D Minor alone in a church. It is both intensely personalized, as well as universally stratospheric. It exists on a strata far above most music. It is graceful and magnificent and jaw-droppingly beautiful. It is a work of life, a soul. Its greatness lies mostly in how its emotion expands its 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.

Listen to track 1, how it breathes and grows and evaporates for the first 9.5 minutes. Get caught up in the drone and the distant, mysterious melodies that blossom from beneath it. Then, pay close attention to what goes from there. The gliding, thunderous, ferocious strokes of overwhelming power expand to the breaking point, and then dissipate for the next. They clear entire planets, entire galaxies, lonely and omnipotent all the same. Notice how 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, against tracks of thought from the birth of existence, against ancient civilizations, against the stars, against nepalm, against physics, against life, or death, against intergalactic explosions, against the answers that have questioned us all, against infinity--before consuming too much for any being, and too much power until there is no where else to go, but...God?

Track 2 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.

The 3rd track is the most challenging aspect of Irrlicht. The more you listen to it the more you'll be able to get caught up in its freedom, its infinity and all the calming breaths, unspoken wisdom and audacity and scope of it. It is here where the album fully coalesces and becomes profoundly reflective and deftly coaxes the listener into an observer of great discovery, and it is here where Irrlicht asserts itself as a masterpiece, and as an infinity.

Listen to Irrlicht with these sorts of things in mind, and you will never be the same again. To understand its pathos, its emotion is really all there is to it.

It depends what you mean by asking if the album is coming around for me. If you are asking if I find it an inaccessible piece of garbage or a fascinating work, I would say I always considered it the latter and never found it unlistenable, not even on my first listen. If you are asking if I have found myself on a path to exalting the album as enthusiastically as you do, I am skeptical that that will ever happen, to be honest with you. I have listened to it loud and with headphones every time I've heard it, and I have done my best to not let my mind become preoccupied with other things. I will remain as open-minded as possible when I give it the few more listens I owe it, and I'll keep your comments in my brain.

You're going through something that is quite common with Irrlicht. The answer is to keep listening to it and keep focusing on the emotion, the overwhelming power and profundity of it, and the experience as a whole. Track 1 as a work of tremendous sweep and immense power, track 2 as a startling portal into the next dimension, and track 3 as a point of reflection from the breaths of infinity.

The album is exploding with genius, ingenuity and astounding vision right there in front of you. Perhaps there's some other factor holding you back from experiencing it? I don't know, but if you ask me it's probably just a matter of listening to it a few more times. I've never seen this album fail for someone in becoming one of their top albums ever (when listened to about 10 times), but than again who knows? Do you like classical music like Beethoven's 5th or Brahms 3rd, or more specifically the first movement to his Violin Concerto? How about Bach's organ work Tocatta & Fugue in D Minor (the infamous transylvania tune)? In terms of emotional content, these are all precursors to Irrlicht that you may want to check out as well and could help you out a bit. Way before I started in on Scaruffi's masterpieces, I had a decent background with listening to classical music and so already was pretty used to focusing on emotion, extended, multi-faceted structures, long and winding passages, epic 20 minute pieces of music and so forth. For me, Irrlicht took 1 listen to like a lot, 2 listens to view it as a masterpiece, and 3 to fall completely in love with it forever. I still listen to it all the time, an average of a few times per week. So perhaps my background helped me out in this, and perhaps the above would help you too.

Other than that, I really don't what to say. It's up to you to find its genius, or not. The music speaks for itself.

Well I do like classical music, but I can't say I listen to it all that often, as I tend to prefer rock. I think I'm fully capable of focusing on the emotions conveyed by music though. Actually, one time in seventh grade my English teacher played a piece of music for us and then told us to write a story while he replayed it focusing on how the music made us feel. When he returned my journal to me, I found only one comment on my story: "You got the music!" So I've clearly been an expert at this for quite some time now. :-)

There might be some other factors holding me back from enjoying Irrlicht. If they continue to do so, I'll comment on all that once I've listened to it a few more times.

Great, you're probably on the right track then. Let me know how it seems after a few more listens, and if it continues to rate below the highest pantheon of albums for you.

By the way, what do you consider the best 10 or so albums ever made?

Very tough, man. I have distinct likes and dislikes in rock music, but I haven't given much thought to a personal top albums list.

If I were to do so, though, I'm sure it would contain a few albums from your 30 overrated albums list. Ones that would probably place pretty high on my all-time list would be Ziggy Stardust, Sgt. Pepper's, The White Album, Who's Next, The Queen Is Dead, Automatic for the People, and Born to Run. [Believe it or not, though, in spite of all the albums I love on that list, I actually find quite a bit to agree with there too. But that's a different story.]

I'd probably have some kid-tested, Scaruffi-approved albums way up there too though, such as Blonde on Blonde, The River, Velvet Underground & Nico, Moondance, Highway 61 Revisited, Exile in Guyville as well as on Main Street, and Daydream Nation (and yes, I did have to pad that category with some 8/10s).

Throw in some albums that Scaruffists don't care about enough to get excited about or deem overrated (such as Blood on the Tracks, London Calling, Something/Anything?, Marquee Moon, One Nation Under a Groove, Physical Graffiti, Rum Sodomy and the Lash, Court and Spark, another Van Morrison album [probably It's Too Late to Stop Now if I can include live albums, St. Dominic's Preview if I can't], Crooked Rain Crooked Rain, probably throw in an album from this decade and my favorite one so far is Blueberry Boat, bah this is waaaay more than ten albums but you get the idea), and you've got yourself a good representation of my tastes.

Ever try In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel? Based on what you've listed, it would be the first album I consider a masterpiece, that I'd recommend to you.

Also, Repeater by Fugazi and Songs of Leonard Cohen would be great picks for you I think.

Yep, I love In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. It wouldn't be on quite the highest tier as some of these albums on my favorite albums list, but it would be up there for sure.

Something about Songs for Leonard Cohen has failed to impress me (particularly the music), but I need to give it a few more listens.

I definitely should pick up Repeater.

In case you were wondering about some other Scaruffaves, lukeprog has recommended some to me and had some great luck with Zen Arcade, Safe As Milk, Songs the Lord Taught Us, Cyclops Nuclear Submarine Captain, and Happy Sad. I've also basically asked him for recommendations of albums I would think I would hate; he suggested Neu! and Spiderland, both of which I actually liked. I also picked up Perfect From Now On independently (based on a love of There Is Nothing Wrong With Love) and I dig that album too.

Give Songs of Leonard Cohen at least 5 full listens and I'd be shocked if it didn't come around for you in a big way. It's very moving once you "get it", which isn't difficult, and most should be able to do it within 5 or so listens, even an average radio-friendly fan.

A bit more challenging one (but not too tough at all) is Spirit of Eden by Talk Talk. It is incredible, and I consider it a masterpiece for sure. It should take between 5-10 listens to begin fully appreciating/loving it, and I wouldn't fret from guarenteeing it becomes one of your all time favorites. I would suggest this one to you way before I would suggest somthing like Irrlicht.

After seeing your "best albums" list, I'd also recommend Pink Moon by Nick Drake.

After learning a bit about what you like, if you asked me now (and I think Luke would agree) for albums I think you'd hate I'd respond with Faust and Dream Theory In Malaya, and from what I've heard of Twin Infinitives I'd say that as well. These specifically take "Scaruffi-trained" listening habits to develop a taste for, and I wouldn't recommend them until after tackling most of Scaruffi's masterpieces as well as some of the easier albums that have influenced them or been influenced in their wake. Their genius takes some uncovering and their emotions are more distant than even an above-average listener can be expected to handle. I can't really imagine some other type of listener, aside from a Scaruffist (as you like to put it) seeing them as masterpieces.

Another one I probably wouldn't recommend is Lorca unless you love Astral Weeks, which by all indications I don't think you do. Lorca is a bit more challenging than Astral Weeks and is similar stylistically.

Afterhours, over the past few posts I hear you telling AJDaGreat - about several albums - that, "If you just listen enough, you'll get it, and then you'll love it." I think this presumes too much: (1) that you/me/Scaruffi are correct, or even that (2) if AJDaGreat came to think so, these would become his favorite albums.

Also, Faust and Dream Theory in Malaya and Twin Infinitives do not require "Scaruffi-trained" listening habits (but it helps). Julian Cope reviewed Faust more gushingly than any other album before Scaruffi's English-language rock history was published. Twin Infinitives has a significant cult following who think it is the greatest album of the 90s. And... well, I guess you've got me on Dream Theory in Malaya. But my point is that other people loved each of these albums before Scaruffi wrote about them.

Actually my presumptions with AJ are based on considerable experience I've had with lending people albums over the years. While each person is obviously different, I've found that my expectations of a listener based on evaluation of his/her tastes almost always prove correct. I made my recommendations and the general amount of listens I predicted based on what albums he favors and that's all. I've known more than a few who share virtually identical tastes as he, and have made recommendations such as what I gave him with very good success. It has virtually nothing to do with my own taste: if it were me, I'd be giving absurd predictions like "borrow John Coltrane's Ascension, it will only take you 1 listen to love it." This would be an accurate recommendation coming to me or perhaps you Luke, but my music tastes differ significantly from AJ. It's not about rightness or anything--to me all music tastes are inherently subjective--it's about looking at who's in front of you and recommending from there. In this case he listed his favorite albums and I went from there. In the last case with Irrlicht he asked for an album of so-called "unlistenable noise", etc. I went from there and recommended Irrlicht and Parable of Arable Land.

You make some good points on Faust and Twin Infinitives which are totally true, especially that others loved the albums before Scaruffi. Can't argue with that. I'll reword my statement (though I'm mainly speaking of Faust here, since I've hardly listened to Twin Infinitives) to "it is highly suggested that one 'conquers' many avant-garde works prior to tackling Faust or Twin Infinitives. For Faust I recommend conquering these albums in the following order, or more or less simultaneously: Third-Soft Machine, Lullaby Land-Vampire Rodents, Tago Mago-Can, Y-Pop Group, Neu!-Neu, and, I haven't listened to it in over a year but it seems like the song Revolution 9 by The Beatles of all bands, could help.

For Twin Infinitives I recommend watching David Lynch's Eraserhead in slow motion while sitting on a merry-go-round, listening to a blender full of garbage, and watching cars get squashed in a scrap heap in the background.

Seriously though, ask Luke for advice on that one. I've hardly touched Twin Infinitives.

I think what I need to do is read the lyrics to Songs of Leonard Cohen while I listen to the entire album. It seems like an album that I won't get unless I focus specifically on the poetry of the lyrics.

No offense, but I think you have too much confidence in the ubiquitous potential of your personal taste. No matter how much I liked something or how well I thought I understood someone's preferences, I would never guarantee an album becomes one of someone else's all-time favorites. But that's just me. I'll try to get my hands on Spirit of Eden.

Pink Moon is a little too mellow to become one of my all-time favorites, but I do like it a whole lot.

I actually have listened to parts of Faust and found them interesting and kinda fun in their own weird way (I do after all love Trout Mask Replica; if I had included a few more albums above I probably would have mentioned it). But you're right that I probably don't get the emotion behind it all, and you're also right in that I doubt it will ever become one of my favorites.

I'll keep that in mind about Lorca, although I do really like Happy Sad and Starsailor.

P.S. I'm glad to finally hear someone else use the word "Scaruffist." Now if I could only get it to really catch on, along with Scaruffism, Scaruffic, Scaruffian, Scaruffaves, Scaruffobia, and Scaruff the Magic Dragon. :-)

You've nearly convinced me to rename myself from AfterHours to Scaruff the Magic Dragon.

Regarding the ubiquitos potential of my own taste: my own tastes differ strongly from yours and if I recommeded based on that you'd never trust me in the slightest ever again.

See above answers to Luke's post for explanations on my recommedations to you.

On Lorca, Luke may be able to tell you if enjoying Starsailor is a suitable prerequisite for tackling Lorca. To me, Astral Weeks and Lorca are pretty similar, though Astral Weeks has a fuller, and perhaps more dynamic sound. Morrison's voice is warmer--he manages to communicate more to the listener despite being caught up in what he's saying, while on Lorca Buckley is completely lost in whatever he's saying and it demands the listener's attentiveness more. Both are masterpieces to me, but I would highly doubt someone could really get Lorca and not get Astral Weeks. If you look at the challenge ratings listed on my greatest albums list, I would rate Lorca a 7.5 (DIFFICULT/VERY DIFFICULT) and Astral Weeks a 6.5 (PRETTY CHALLENGING/DIFFICULT). Anyways, there ya go.

--Scaruff the Magic Dragon

Yet you've still said things before like,

"Van Morrison: Astral Weeks (1968): 10 (maybe a couple more) listens and you'll think it's one of the top 5 albums ever made."

"When someone posts something like: 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band #1 Album of All Time' or other such unfathomableness (my new word for the day), I very nearly feel bad for the person... I simply wish they could find what I've found, what you've found, what other's have found with these albums... If they only knew how much better the best rock music is to that (Sgt. Pepper)"

Just two examples. I get the impression from you that you feel if people listened to certain preparatory works and gave an album enough chances to sink into their heads that everyone would love the exact same albums you love. The latter quotation suggests that you can't accept that someone could find a truly fulfilling experience in music you personally find overrated and implies your tastes elevate you to a whole new enlightened plane of music-appreciating existence. I apologize if that sounds harsh, but I just strongly disagree with this sort of mentality, whether it applies to Scaruffaves or any other form of art. And after all, you didn't ask me my tastes before you claimed Astral Weeks would move to my top five in 10 listens.

In other news... I think I'll hold off on Twin Infinitives indefinitely, although I actually loved Eraserhead. Also, I've never really been a fan of Revolution 9; believe it or not, I find Faust much more appealing. Perhaps I'm more fickle than you realize. :-)

TO AJ, regarding his last post:

"Van Morrison--Astral Weeks (1968): 10 (maybe a couple more) listens and you'll think it's one of the top 5 albums ever made."

This is a proclamation I've found over the last 5 1/2 years to be 100% accurate so far, with slight exception to the "top 5 albums ever made" aspect. Should be reworded to "you'll think it's one of the very best albums ever made." I will continue to make it, or some such variation, until it is proved wrong. Out of all the albums I've recommended it is Astral Weeks that has proved the most successful in being viewed as a masterpiece once listened to around 10 times.

At the time I said that, I had not reviewed your profile for whether or not you'd listened to it, and you never mentioned it to me as one of the Scaruffi albums you'd heard or had an opinion on. Therefore, the statement was made with the idea that you'd never heard it. I still hold you to it, to see if you can or cannot break it's 100% accuracy, so consider it a test or a game to break the albums' spell (though it must be qualified that the listens come within a short time frame, perhaps 20 days give or take). How many times have you listened to it so far and over how long an approximate time?

As far as your opinion of my "exalted music appreciation" goes, I can easily see how that could be culled out of what I said, but it's simply not true. Realize that the communication was directed only to Luke so has a different viewpoint between he and I, then if I were to say it to you (which seems to be how you're evaluating it). I feel music is subjective and if someone enjoys something that's great: they're enjoying it. BUT I've found in every case that when I convince someone or they convince themselves to listen to the albums I find, or Luke finds, or Scaruffi finds to be masterpieces, they uniformly agree that they're superior than the music they were listening to before, or than what are more commonly regarded as "the greatest albums of all time", so long as they are given the proper attention and are doing so without any beefs towards Scaruffi's, or Scaruff the Magic Dragon's point of view. An example of beefs would be "I hate him because he thrashes the Beatles". I used to have that one and it prevented me from getting much out of the albums I'd tried. Two years later, once I decided to go into it with simply focusing on what Scaruffi saw in them (instead of the disagreements I had with him), which was primarily the "depth or profundity of emotions in the music", I was able to 'get' the albums at an ever-increasing rate up until this day. I've found the same thing to be true in all other cases, though this doesn't mean it would hold true with anyone and everyone. I tend to choose who I recommend these albums to. For instance, it wouldn't work with my mother or my grandpa. The type of music is just too far outside their reality of what music even is. As another example, I wouldn't yet include you in this, which is why I've diverted away from Irrlicht to other, more universal albums, simply because you seem to have a slight beef with Scaruffi, Scaruffists and so forth, and I suspect this would have a tendency to prevent you somewhat from being willing to experience what the recommendations have to offer. So honestly, while I think it'd be great to see you go full throttle into Scaruffi's picks, I am totally content with you favoring Ziggy Stardust and the like over Irrlicht and Astral Weeks, etc. You can like whatever you want to like. I'm not interested in stretching the breadth of your music tastes to include us "Scaruffists", unless you want to do it yourself, otherwise it is very unlikely to work since these albums are quite avant-garde and generally require more dedication than others.

--Scaruff the Magic Dragon

"you never mentioned it to me as one of the Scaruffi albums you'd heard or had an opinion on" - Actually, we had talked about Astral Weeks before, back when it topped your original greatest albums list that had plenty of Bowie and Beatles on it, but that was a while ago, so I'll forgive you for not remembering the conversation. When you made that comment on the Overrated Rock Albums list, I wasn't sure if you remembered or not so I didn't know how to take it.

When I first picked up Astral Weeks (probably 3.5 years ago), I listened to it about 4 or 5 times in a short period of time and found the album as a whole a bit disappointing, especially compared to Van Morrison's other work. Since then I've gone back to it sporadically probably about 5 times, which would give me the 10 listens, although not in the condensed period you prescribe (and also these are just rough estimates).

Let me also point out that while I do have some beefs with Scaruffi, I think I can successfully separate them from my evaluation of the music. I think Luke can attest to this, that he has sent me music that any rational person would think I would hate, but I've always been surprised and liked them more than I expected (e.g. Faust, Neu!). That doesn't mean they've become my favorite albums, because I think I just have a different set of criteria for enjoying albums than Scaruffists. In regards to people always changing their mind about Scaruffi vs. acclaimed albums, that greatly surprises me considering how un-mainstream they tend to be, and I would seriously doubt it would hold up for the population as a whole. Maybe you just have very open-minded or easily-influenced friends with latent avant-garde tastes.

But don't think that the only reason Irrlicht isn't one of my favorite albums is because Scaruffi doesn't like Rubber Soul. I'm keeping an open mind and I plan on listening to the album enough times to convince you that I've fully digested it.

Like I said, on "people always changing their mind", I've done it has a selective process, and I totally agree with you that it wouldn't work on the entire populous. I simply pick people who honestly want to give it a shot, no reservations. I can tell when I talk with them, whether their my friends or just acquaintenances, people I work with or what have you. They're usually borrowing my personal albums, my CDs, so I just tell them straight up that if they're not gonna go for it, it's not worth it, so please do so in exchange for me letting you borrow this CD. Then I just kinda check in with them every now and then, and help them out as necessary--maybe send them a review that hits the spot, write one myself, or some such service.

As regards Astral Weeks, I'd highly suggest following my recommendation. Of course, it's up to you, but you may find something in it you've missed.

You're right, I hadn't thought of that conversation about Astral Weeks topping my original list. I erased it long ago and it hadn't occured to me you were the same person. Now that you mention it I do remember the conversation. I still remember that list pretty vividly, and what I posted was how I felt at that time, but certainly no longer. By memory, it went something like this:

1. Astral Weeks
2. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
3. Pet Sounds
4. Kind of Blue
5. Highway 61 Rev
6. Revolver
7. Forever Changes
8. What's Going On
9. Blood On the Tracks
10. Funeral
11. A Love Supreme
12. OK Computer
13. Lifted or the Story...
14. The Stone Roses
15. Exile On Main St
--becomes harder to remember here
16. Blonde on Blonde
17. Low
18. London Calling
19. Let It Bleed
20. I'm Wide Awake It's Morning
21. The VU & Nico
22. Horses
23. Are You Exp?
24. A Hard Days Night
25. Never Mind The Bollocks
--gets really hard to remember here
26. Blue
27. Sticky Fingers
28. The Band
29. Ziggy Stardust
30. Fevers & Mirrors
31. In Utero
32. The Bends
33. Fun House
34. The Doors
35. Countdown to Ecstacy
36. Beggar's Banquet
37. Rubber Soul
38. Hunky Dory
39. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
40. Otis Blue
41. Unplugged In NY (Nirvana)
42. Sgt Pepper
43. Daydream Nation
44. Bringing It All Back Home
45. Abbey Road

If it was a full 50, then I can't remember what the other 5 were right now. If you have it saved I'd love to hear what they were.

If you claim to be able to honestly separate "the beef" from "the pudding" with regards to Scaruffianisticalism (word of the day), then go for it. Let me know how it plays out. I'd recommend going to Scaruffi.com every now and then and reading what he has to say about the albums. He usually puts it best. The ones I've mentioned stand as the ones I'd most recommend to you for a start. I'd suggest "finishing up" on Songs of Leonard Cohen and Astral Weeks by listening to them 5-10 times in a short succession (about once every other day is usually successful, so 10-20 days). Aside from that, you're welcome to follow my "greatest albums list" for others to check out--I obviously can highly recommend anything that shows up on there. And you're welcome to ask me for further details on them, or any help you want. Check out Spirit of Eden as well and let me know what you think. My estimation is that it should take you about 5-10 listens, based on what you've shown me you favor.

And good luck with Irrlicht. Feel free to update me, ask questions and so forth. I think you can get it within a small handful of continued listens, but if not, I understand it can be a tough one. Perhaps it will end up being one you'll just have to withdraw from and come back to, as Luke has mentioned in earlier posts.

I've been looking at this Scaruffi guy's stuff and I have to wonder what the big deal is. All I see are short two, three sentence blurbs and a rating on albums. Does he write lengthy music criticism that appears elsewhere?

As a long time metal fan, I have to call into question his Best heavy-metal albums of all time list. Especially considering many of those albums aren't considered metal by metal fans at all. And Metallica's Master Of Puppets is #2? Dark Angel's Darkness Descends is a better thrash album, though I'm not particularly fond of thrash in general. Iron Maiden's self-titled better than the stuff with Dickinson? I could come up with a more authoritative best of heavy-metal list than this.

It is nice to see a few black metal albums make the list. Burzum's Filosofem makes it all the way up to #19; on my own list it would certainly be in the top 3 (perhaps even the #1 spot). That album is godly.

Well, Lukeprog can comment better on your heavy metal concerns. I haven't delved into Scaruffi's heavy metal picks much and I haven't found much in the genre I like a whole lot. To me Master of Puppets, while Metallica's best album, is a very good album--it does have many amazing rhythm and lead guitar parts but I prefer heavy music with more varied levels of vocal emotions (Hendrix would be a good blueprint even though it's older), or Fugazi or Husker Du (I know it's punk and it's more hard than heavy but that's the idea I'm talking about).

As far as Scaruffi as a whole, to me he is by far the most consistent, trustworthy music critic for my tastes. But, if you don't share his tastes he's probably not going to work with you in almost any genre. He seems to focus primarily on the level of ingenuity, depth, profundity or exhileration of emotion found in an album, and his ratings ascend or descend based on the degree the music meets an ideal for those factors. If you look for something else in an album, you'll probably find disagreement with him in most cases.

Re: Master of Puppets. I acknowledge that I may be biased towards Master of Puppets because it was one of a handful of albums that introduced me to serious (aka non-CCM) music. But let me explain to you what I love about it.

James' voice takes the werewolvian growl of Captain Beefheart and turns it into an anthemic shout of fury. By Master of Puppets, his voice is as strong as it ever gets.

Fade to Black and the superior Master of Puppets are the first albums I know of where the rage and passion of heavy metal are played with the professionalism, sheen, and intelligence of a classical music performance. Heavy metal and other "hardcore" styles (industrial, etc.) before 1985 are very rough and sloppy sounding, often to their credit. But Master of Puppets is played and mastered with the perfectionism of concert performance. And the appreciation for classical music on Kill 'Em All reaches its peak on tracks like "Master of Puppets" and especially "Orion". And, it's a very strong record. It seems like metal is especially succeptible to producing albums with only 2 or 3 strong tracks, but I think there are 6/8 exceptional tracks on Master of Puppets.

Besides, it just plain kicks ass.

You make some good points there. And an interesting view on James' voice. Never thought of that before.

The classical music ties are what I've always enjoyed most about Master of Puppets. When I last listened to the album (some renewed interest about a week or so ago, after I saw it listed on your "greatest rock albums" list in the 8/10 category) it seemed very good. Technically, it's more accomplished than most bands could even dream of. There's no doubt about their compositional craft or their ridiculous skill. I used to be a pretty big fan of Metallica, and I will still say that they are one of the best live acts one could possibly see (I saw them some years ago and it was incredible).

Emotively, on this last listen I found them kind of numbing/vocally monotonous. But I still own the CD so who knows? It's survived in my collection throughout the years despite having sold off other CDs. I'll have to give it another shot soon with your viewpoint in mind.

I suspect that Scaruffi's approach (and mine) will never be your cup 'o tea. His criteria for judging music is here. His history has only a short blurb on each artist; individual artist pages usually have a lot more to say about specific albums.

Basically, Scaruffi is very interested in musical and emotional innovation. His is a very historical perspective. And because he has listened to tens of thousands of albums from every existing genre of music, not just thousands of albums from about 200 genres like many music conisseurs, he is more qualified than most to know if something is truly innovative or not. But innovation certainly isn't all he cares about. Familiarize yourself with his writing and you'll start to get it. Or, don't. If you love Iron Maiden I doubt you'll ever love Scaruffi.

I suppose you're right. But that heavy-metal list still seems incredibly wrong, even considering his criteria.

His definition of metal is too lax, and even if counting releases that had an influence on metal, that still doesn't excuse albums like Live: Throwing Copper being on there, which has nothing to do with metal nor has it influenced any metal that I've heard (though it's a decent rock album). Same goes for Queens of the Stone Age, Marlyn Manson, Tool, Deftones, Rage Against the Machine, Jane's Addiction, etc. It would make more sense to put in the classical influence of metal such as Vivaldi's Four Seasons (if L'Estate isn't metal, nothing is) or something like Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen.

There's no Black Sabbath self-titled, no Possessed: Seven Churches, Bathory needs to be much higher, and Scaruffi seems to have a thing for gothic/doom metal. He's included something from all the major British goth/doom bands (it's the only metal genre the British seem to be good at).

What's interesting is that almost none of the metal list is avant-garde. Almost all of them are pure genre releases. I see that he gave Ulver's Themes from William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell a 7, which is a higher grade than others on the metal list, but didn't include it. Any of the first four Ulver releases should be put on the list. Maybe he hasn't updated the list in a while.

It does seem like Scaruffi hasn't heard much outside of mainstream metal; it would be interesting to know what he'd think of some of the lesser known bands like Summoning, Meads of Asphodel, Agalloch, Xasthur, Judas Iscariot, Primordial, Windir, early Abigor, Hirilorn, Finntroll (metal + polka!), etc.

You clearly know an awful lot about metal. His genre-specific lists are incredibly out of date, yes.

BTW, I once listened briefly through Agalloch's major discography and didn't hear anything special. What's so great about them?

They're an interesting mixture of doom, folk, and metal. I like the transcendental qualities of their work, but we seem to live on different planets. I recently gave a listen to Van Morrison's Astral Weeks and Velvet Underground & Nico after seeing all this about how great they are, and I didn't care for them at all. *shrug*

So, NYT did a brief profile of Piero Scaruffi this week, but it doesn't really do him or his site any justice.

You can't find any justice in an article entitled "The Greatest Web Site of All Time"?

Lol. Well, the article doesn't support the title very well at all. And it would've been easy for the article to do so!

Although I did enjoy his site at first I find Scaruffi to be exactly as he claims - a scientist reviewing rock music. He claims that if Faust had released their debut 10 years after everyone had been doing those things for a while, he wouldn't consider them to be good at all. What he's basically saying is that he doesn't really care what an album actually sounds like, but rather how original it is. I'm seeing this attitude a lot among some of the posters here - "if I can't understand it until I listed to it 35 times, it's not very good". Come on, Faust is one of the greatest albums of all time? I really like So Far and IV, but to say their debut is one of the top five albums ever made? Even the band themselves would think this a joke. Yeah, Faust were the first ones to make music like this. The point is nowadays just about anyone with the right equipment can make random and bizarre music like this (I have listened to the album about 10-12 times by the way), and while I admit there are some good qualities to the X-ray album, there's just nothing brilliant about it. I can say the same of Irrlicht - at the time, I'm sure it was very revolutionary, but now it's hardly notable. Again, this album could, nowadays, have been made by anyone. 23 minute songs with only 3 notes in them? Yeah, it's 'spacey' and 'ambient' but far more interesting things have come along since then. The reason why few artists have persued that path is because it's not very interesting to them, nor is it to 99% of the population. Whereas everybody's trying to be the next Beatles. Pop songs are enjoyable by pretty much everyone and writing a good one is very challenging (why do you think that only one band, XTC, has even come CLOSE to writing the kind of hooks the Beatles did, when so many try??)

Personally, I question Scaruffi quite a bit. Look at the answer to this question:

"Interviewer: So, is there any quality that makes a recording timeless?

Scaruffi: Alas, nothing is timeless. We are all going to die and be forgotten, humans and their artifacts, masterpieces included. It is just a matter of time."

Come on!!! He HAD to know what the interviewer meant and decided to give a smartass response to it. As far as humans are concerned, "timeless" means that it will be remembered throughout their lives. And Scaruffi IS human, right?? Too often he is looking at the "big picture" that nobody really cares much about. For example, his scale is out of 10 points, but out of all of the music he has heard the highest he has ever given an album is 9.5. He has stressed that a 10 means perfection. Of course, all reviewers no there's no such thing as a perfect album, and that a 10 should really just mean an album that's extremely good. Piero will never give out a 10 rating, because to give one on his scale means there is no possible way an album can be better. Thus, the rating system is effectively out of 9.5. I really don't agree with this thinking - you CAN'T have perfection in art. Scaruffi is looking for absolutes in his ratings. He is looking to see music objectively, based on historical importance, experimentation, and how much the album doesn't pander to the masses.

Which, of course results in some very strange ratings. Kraftwerk 2 is the best of all their albums? He rates the two s/t's, Ralf und Florian, and Autobahn higher than Trans-Europe Express, Man-Machine, and Computer World. I cannot think of another critic who would do that. Kraftwerk 2 is REALLY better than any album the Beatles ever put out? It gets more ridiculous - Limp Bizkit's Significant Other is on par with Abbey Road and better than every other Beatles album? How can anyone take this man seriously?

I'm not saying his opinions don't have merit. Trout Mask is a great album (although I suspect that many of you are taking it too seriously), Rock Bottom is great, Velvets are great (but overrated), and so on. The point is that making experimental music is easy. Writing a great 3 minute pop song isn't, and that's what people want to hear. Music criticism should be based on the MERITS OF THE MUSIC, not how many people had "done it before". There are almost no original ideas in music anymore, so what? If the only time when I can really 'feel' music is when I am dancing to it and shouting the lyrics, does it make the songs I shout along to "masterpieces"? Or can a song only be one if you can't dance to it??

I found this quote in my old archives. I've no idea who wrote it

"The VAMPIRE RODENTS are possibly the hardest band to market, but no doubt the most unique we've come across. On their 3rd CD, LULLABY LAND, they maintain the commercial viability comparable to that of caramel covered onions. The RODENTS combine cellos, violins, guitars and a handful of ethnic instruments that I can't spell. Lyrically, they're 2 sandwiches short of a picnic, with absured phrases channeled through a doppleganger vocal delivery. COIL, THE RESIDENTS, MR. BUNGLE, BENNY GOODMAN and Carl Stalling couldn't concoct a better brew. Jared of CHEMLAB and Dan of BABYLAND contribute guest vocals."

Is that a dig at caramelized onions? Because I like those.

It's the first time i've heard of them

Lol. I just noticed this: "Belardinelli" and "Erbert"

Belardinelli is particularly amusing as a nickname, given the guy weighs about 100 pounds.

Heh, I hadn't noticed that before, either!

You haven't got any more interesting snippets of conversations, have you?

No, sorry! I am reluctant to waste Scaruffi's time with my thoughts, and he is even more reluctant to do so. I've been missing his music updates lately, but since rock-descended music has creatively flatlined, I don't mind that he's spending more time on other projects instead.

It looks like we're not the only ones paying a lot of attention to the Scaruffi 8's

Nice link. I'm sure there's some ruckus at RYM, too. I do wish Scaruffi would spend more time on filling in the gaps (like Shit and Shine) in his excellent rock history and less on tracking new music, which is almost exclusively bad.

My own impression of Ladybird: I love it, and I prefer it to Jealous of Shit and Shine. Ladybird is relentlessly intense, and in an emotionally effective way rather than a coldly technical way (like, say, OV). I wouldn't give it an 8/10, but I'm even stricter than Scaruffi. However excellent, it's basically a noise-metal cover of "Sister Ray."

I wonder what Scaruffi would think of Gang Gang Dance or The Book of Knots.

I sent an email to Scaruffi recommending him to listen to Hillulah, but does anyone know how well he takes random advice from innocuous recreational fans of his site?

http://www.scaruffi.com/vol7/ganggang.html

The self-titled album and God's Money are new 7/10 albums.

Has anyone else heard Hillulah by Gang Gang Dance?

Yeah. It's quite good. There work is too inconsistent from track to track to really get me excited, though.

yeah, i agree, but i still love it, especially The Cooler.

In case you haven't seen it yet, here is a new interview with Scaruffi: http://thedaily.washington.edu/article/2007/5/24/musicPieroScaruffiIsThe...

Thanks. Because Scaruffi is able to represent himself, the interview does a much better job of making the case for its title than that NYT article a while back.

Yes, yes. Very good interview, mostly thanks to the thoughtful questions.

"were you able to identify him by name?"

I wouldn't expect the average person to know any music critics by name. But if someone spends time online seriously researching this music, it wouldn't surprise me if they stumbled across scaruffi's site sooner or later. I think i found scaruffi's site before i even found ebay, back in the day (1997/1998?).

On that topic, it can be funny/heartbreaking to discover who some people can't identify by name. I know people, well past high school age, who haven't heard of Descartes or Napoleon or Orson Welles or James Joyce.

That is troubling and unsurprising. Not even Napoleon? Then again, my brother's girlfriend (20) didn't know there were planets outside our solar system until last week. I'm sure there's a lot of common knowledge I'm missing out on. I bet it is relevant to fashion or home maintenance, both far more practical than knowledge of planets outside our solar system.

Heard of are the key words...that is disappointing that those at that age have not heard of Welles or Joyce, but some people are not into epical fiction or older movies, though they are missing out in the latter case...beyond Descartes, I cannot believe that there are people have not heard of Socrates, or think that Plato is nothing more than a former planet, or a planet, I do not know if those same people are even up to date of year old current events...is it current if it is a year old?...but Napoleon, that is ridiculous, who has not heard the name Napoleon; that is beyond my comprehension...

what did you make of the bad marriage comment?

It sounded like he tells young urban singles, perhaps in a New Ways of Loving kind of spirit, not to assumme marriage. I want to know why The Daily says he waxes philosophical about Robert Wyatt, and then Scaruffi is not quoted speaking of Wyatt. I was expecting him to appear in Scaruffi's answer to "If there’s one song or album that can that turn someone onto independent/alternative music and away from mainstream, what is it?"

What is this? LoL

Alas, I don't speak Italian, but I'm sure it has to do with a popular Italian rock criticism site, Onda Rock, which has a community highly influenced by Scaruffian criticism. Like Scaruffists, they have quite a presence on RYM.

Have you heard Scaruffi's favorite song from 2005? Here it is:
http://youtube.com/watch?v=gYTqYVHS1lo

What can you say, Scaruffi certainly has his odd moments :)

My God, that is the most inane thing I've ever seen or listened to.

hahahaha

that is a joke though, right?

I asked Scaruffi if "Dubi Dam Dam" was a joke. His reply?

> No, it is a masterpiece.

Wow. That is a surprise.
He must see something in it, but I really REALLY can't think what.

i doubt he'd make any #1 a joke

He's obviously taking the piss

I just checked it out for the first time and while it does help a little to not watch the video, I don't see how it could possibly be anything close to a masterpiece. I'd love to read an explanation from Scaruffi on what makes it so incredible. It certainly is catchy though...

He calls it: "one of the most demented dance-pop anthems of all times." Well, when you put it like that...

Don't take this the wrong way but it seems like he's having fun with those who take him too seriously ;)

Though that would be funny, I doubt it.

Not a full album, but Raspberry Parade's "spacing out" should be mentioned in scaruffi's history somewhere, i think.

Someone in another thread mentioned them.

http://www.myspace.com/raspberryparade

my latest disagreement with scaruffi:

"but (at 34 minutes) the collection hardly qualified as an "album"."

there are other times where he's referred to sub-40 minute albums as "mini" albums. (i can't give specifics.) NOW, the problem is that many, many great albums are around the 35 minute mark. even his own greatest albums list includes such non-albums. desertshore isn't even 30 minutes. pere ubu's debut is 36 or so. what gives?

Pfff, that is weird.

And I can think of lots of albums that would be improved by trimming a few minutes.

What do you make of this page http://www.scaruffi.com/music/readers.html ? I found it on google and cannot actually find a link to it from his website.

Huh. Looks like an old version of this page, or something.

Firstly, the Scaruffi 7.5/10 album The Taller You Are, the Shorter You Get by My Dad Is Dead is available for free download on their website along with other albums of theirs. Personally I would give that album about 7.5/10 as well; it is indeed very strong. http://www.mydadisdead.com/music/

Also, Scaruffi has added many new pages to his site in recent months. Among the bands now on the site that are mentioned in your "missing Scaruffi profiles" are:

"Igor Wakhevitch (France), a student of Pierre Schaeffer, blended electronic music, psychedelic rock and classical opera on his intimidating albums Logos (1970), Docteur Faust (1971) and Hathor (1973)." http://www.scaruffi.com/avant/cpt8.html Wakhevitch was recommended to Scaruffi by Mike Gira: http://209.85.229.132/search?q=cache:x8jzjHK8u8wJ:www.scaruffi.com/inter...

http://www.scaruffi.com/avant/richter.html - Max Richter, though curiously this page is presently blank.

http://www.scaruffi.com/avant/1617.html - 16-17

http://www.scaruffi.com/vol7/kayodot.html - Maudlin of the Well, Kayo Dot and Toby Driver (note: Choirs of the Eye is a new 7/10 and its rating might rise; "perhaps the most accomplished fusion yet of death-metal, post-rock, jazz and classical music by any band")

http://www.scaruffi.com/vol5/species.html - Species Being, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, and in particular The Book of Knots

http://www.scaruffi.com/vol7/goslings.html - Goslings

http://www.scaruffi.com/vol4/death.html - Death (this page has been around for a while)

http://www.scaruffi.com/vol7/haveanic.html - Have a Nice Life (note: Deathconsciousness is another new 7/10)

Thanks!

I finally updated the above list in response to profiles Scaruffi has added.

Yes, Piero Scaruffi is now on Twitter.

I have to admit, this is the best Twitter page I've ever seen.

"A lot of modern music is about sampling and remixing: isn't that true of people's relationships too?"

I found this hilarious image on the net.

Is that a picture of Scaruffi driving the bus?

Yes.