Monday, 2 June 2014

Johnny Zhivago's 50 Favourite Albums Part 1 (50-26)

I Didn't read Kurt Cobain's diary when they released it. Many people have told me I should and that i'd enjoy it, but I just feel like it's his journal y'know? Not every aspect of every celebrity's life needs to be exposed. Later on down the road I heard that within his journal he jotted down his 50 favourite albums. This piqued my interest and I shamefully went hunting for it online. To see which albums he thought were the best and to see where much of his inspiration was seeded was interesting to me. It got me thinking about which albums would be on my list. Well here they are. I tried to be as honest as possible here...i'm sure there are plenty on this list that will make you scoff, or scratch your head. But it's my list and i'm not going to be all hipster and include obviously inspirational albums even when i've never heard them. Please enjoy! Johnny Zhivago's 50 Favourite Albums.

50. Aoxomoxoa - The Grateful Dead

From a young age I identified with the Grateful Dead. Loved the carefree attitude, the tye-dye and psychadelic imagery. Sure the music was great, but it was the life style that made me wish I was alive in the 60s. I liked the music, but it was tough for me to find an album to put on and enjoy all the way through. I at first tried their 1987 release In The Dark, but outside of "Touch Of Grey" it didn't do much for me. Of course there was Skeletons In The Closet, but I always thought greatest hit albums were a bit of a cheat. Then I heard Aoxomoxoa their third (and almost forgotten) album. It's not too experimental that you can't get into it, but it's also just groovy enough that you can put it on and chill all the way through. Love the crazy album title and artwork as well.

49. Razorblade Suitcase - Bush

The copy I own of Razorblade Suitcase was released when Bush still had to put that silly X after their name in Canada. So on my CD shelf I have this one by Bush X and Sixteen Stone by Bush. Haha. I know many people might scream blasphemy at me picking this one over Sixteen Stone but 'Swallowed' and 'Greedy Fly' are my 2 favourite Bush songs. Better than anything on their first album, plus I felt they took a few more chances here that paid off. "Cold Contagious" and 'Mouth" weren't terribly mainstream but they showed Bush's desire to expand in new directions.

48. A Healthy Distrust - Sage Francis

I'm a rock guy at heart. I like guitars, drums, hard vocals. Punk, metal, alt-rock, know the kind. That being said I can always enjoy a well written and produced rap/hip-hop track. Though I must admit, the songs by rap groups I enjoy I either never got a chance to absorb the albums they came off of or just thought the single was enough. Sage Francis' A Healthy Distrust however, has some magical moments on it. Call it rap, hip-hop, slam poetry,'s a great mix of melody, quick paced vocals and hard hitting issues.
"Sea Lion" was the song that got me to take a closer look.

47. Rumours - Fleetwood Mac

Ahhh Rumours....

I don't know if i've ever seen a greatest album list thingy where this album wasn't included. Admittedly I am a Fleetwood Mac fan. Though some of my favourite songs are not on this album...Rumours is just too pure a listening experience to look past. From 'Second Hand New' to 'Gold Dust Woman' you know what you're getting when you pop this baby in the CD player.....yeah. Purists might say that only way to listen to some of these albums is on vinyl, which is cool and all...but c'mon I was born in the 80's. By the time I was ready to build an album collection, CDs were the way to thats the way I have enjoyed the majority of these albums. Some tapes!

46. Hours - Funeral For A Friend

Back to back bands from the UK up in this! Funeral For A Friend got their start in 2001, and while many fans feel Hours was a departure from the norm for a group, it was the one that really turned me on to them. Songs like "All The Rage", "Roses For The Dead" and "Streetcar" kept their hardcore roots on display while other songs like "History" and "Drive" showcased new talents. Hours was only their second album out of six as of 2013.

45. Insomniac - Green Day

I guess I sort of showed up to the 90's music party late. I missed out on the releases of albums like Nevermind, Superunknown and Dookie. Later on when i'd go back and check them out I felt that those bands had better releases 2 or 3 albums down the line; Like Green Day. I understand why Dookie was hyper popular, but to me, again this is merely my opinion, Insomniac much more enjoyable album. With harsher punk anthems and sharper guitars. Maybe the singles didn't get this across, but perhaps my favourite Green Day song lies within Insomniac's plastic housing: "Bab's Uvula Who?" also "Walking Contradiction"

44. So Jealous - Tegan & Sara

East Coast Canadian sweethearts Tegan & Sara already had a few albums under their belts by 2004, but when So Jealous hit the stores and airwaves people outside of Canada started to notice. The White Stripes would go on to cover "Walking With A Ghost" from this album and Tegan would be invited to provide guest vocals on an Against Me! song. Though the duo has since got into more pop-oriented territories, they still perform the folky, angsty hits from So Jealous in concerts to this day.

43. City Of Evil - Avenged Sevenfold

I will never forget when I first heard "Bat Country"...those drums. Pretty sure I went out and picked this album up based on those kick drums alone. Some drummer out there right now is saying "Really? You like the drums on "Bat Country"? Maaannnnnnnnn I could play that shiznit in my sleepy-sleeps!!!" Fine, but to me it was a perfect storm of musical proficiency, high energy music and just general bad assery. That's what I like about Avenged Sevenfold. I also have The Sounding Of The Seventh Trumpet and Hail To The King by these guys, but I think City Of Evil tops them all.

42. Rubber Soul - The Beatles

Again most album lists might have included Abbey Road, Sgt. Pepper's or The White Album from the Beatle's vast catalog. Rubber Soul did it for me mainly because of "Norwegian Wood", that song still sits atop my list of favourite Beatles songs. Apparently the UK track listing was different from the North American one. Where the UK version kicks off with 'Drive My Car', our first track was 'I've Just Seen A Face' which is obviously the version i'm familiar with. Also another one of my fave Fab Four songs is "We Can Work It Out" and while it was not included on the album it was written during the Rubber Soul sessions. So, i'm counting that.

41. Before These Crowded Streets - Dave Matthews Band

Although I enjoyed a few tracks here and there from later albums by DMB, I consider Before These Crowded Streets the last of the great album trifecta by The Dave Matthews Band. I had Crash on this list but the more I thought of it, this album had more of an effect on me and it's songs are the ones I go back to more often. It's a dark and dreamy album, dealing with all sorts of themes and using layers and layers of instruments to construct the sound they wanted. That's saying something for Dave Matthews and Co. Each member of the group is a skilled and proficient multi-instrumentalist.  Epic tracks like 'Don't Drink The Water" and "The Last Stop" which have become crowd favourites, stand among upbeat tracks like "Stay (Wasting Time). Those are happy releases from some of the darker DMB songs like "Halloween" and "The Dreaming Tree". I'm always taken back to 1998 when I hear these songs.

40. Return To Cookie Mountain - TV On The Radio

Stumbled upon this album by accident kind of. I knew there was a band called TV On The Radio thanks to a guitar magazine I was reading around 2008. I also knew there was a band called Television, an older prog rock group from the 70's. I remember reading a "pick of the week" section of the magazine where various journalists would list off some of their favoiurite albums. One day when I was at the CD store I recalled the article and remembered one journalist recommending an album by TV On The Radio, but I couldn't remember the name...i was pretty sure the album cover was blue-ish. When I got to the TV On The Radio section there was only one album there...but it was not blue. I didn't want to leave empty handed so I grabbed it. Turned out to be Return To Cookie Mountain which also turned out to be a great album! The blue-ish album I was thinking of was Dear Science, though the article I was recalling was actually suggesting the Television album Marquee Moon which also had elements of blue. Such a series of hoopla in the end, landed me a very decent album.

39.  Lover/Fighter - Hawksley Workman

Again, thought the guy's debut album was great, but it was Hawksley Workman's second effort Lover/Fighter that you could hear the advances on. Even a couple hidden bonus tracks are fantastic and make this album an enjoyable listening experience all the way through. I like the reversible album covers too, you can pick the Lover side or the Fighter side. While it's not essential for a great album, but I like it when an artist puts thought into the packaging as well.

38. No Code - Pearl Jam

Of the albums released in the 90's by Pearl Jam No Code is the one that gets overlooked the most. Sad state of affairs that is. It's likely because there was no mega-hit radio single off of the album, but rather a series of Neil Young inspired slower tracks and some artsy songs that some might consider off the wall. To me it was a consistently good album all the way through. Some of my favourite Pearl Jam songs come from this album, "Mankind", "Red Mosquito", "Off He Goes", "Hail Hail" I could go on. Talk about album packaging too, No Code included a series of Polaroid pictures with the lyrics of several songs on them. Not every copied contained every Polaroid either and the album cover was a collage of other pictures meshed together to make the triangle/eyeball symbol of the album when the packaging was all spread out.

37. ...And Out Come The Wolves - Rancid

There were many bands who helped the revival of punk music in the mid-90's, but I don't think any album skyrocketed interest in the genre more than Rancid's ...And Out Come The Wolves. The first exposure I had to Rancid was when they performed on Saturday Night Live. I thought they were great, but I wouldn't buy this album for at least 10 years. No real reason, I guess I knew it would be a great album and it would be there when I was ready to pick it up. It's a great introduction to punk if you're unfamiliar with the genre and is absolutely habit forming.

36. Siren Song For The Counter Culture - Rise Against

Where Rancid ran with the punk-rock ball in the 90's, Rise Against got the forward pass in the early 2000's and punted it clean over some mountains. Rise Against had a great aggressive feel for those ready to burst, and singer Tim McIlrath's voice was different enough to make us listen to his oft-political lyrics. This is the Rise Against album that i've absorbed the most and the only reason it isn't higher is because of what they did to "Swing Life Away". I heard the demo version first and still think it's superior to the over produced version that made this cut.

35. Relationship Of Command - At The Drive-In

How to describe At The Drive-In? It is not an easy task. Take some elements of punk, some metal and experiment with samples and hardcore elements and there ya have it I guess. But if you want a better idea give Relationship Of Command a listen. It will make you rethink everything you knew about your favourite albums and you'll rifle through your CD collection in an attempt to find some deep gems you may have missed. At The Drive-In were not long for this world as they suffered a schism in 2001, half the band would go on to form Sparta and the other half would become The Mars Volta.

34. Damaged - Black Flag

The last few have been very punk oriented and i'm very comfortable with that. There was a time when all I wanted to listen to, play and live was punk music and the punk lifestyle. Precious few albums exemplify the genre better than Black Flag's Damaged. Often viewed as punk's shining gem, it's full of minute to minute and half knuckle bleeding anthems. It's barely polished and perfect by any means, but thats how punk was before it got mixed with rock and pop.

33. Automatic For The People - R.E.M

Outside of this album I am not the biggest R.E.M fan, but I really do think Automatic For The People is a must own for any serious music collector. It seems like the members of the group were meshing together better than they ever had and it seems they even allowed themselves to have some fun with a few of the tracks. From poppy highs of "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight" to crippling lows of "Nightswimming" and even the overplayed "Everybody Hurts" Automatic For The People is a definitive 90's album without being obnoxious about it.

32. Toxicity - System Of A Down

From open to close. Morning to night. 6 to 12. Black to white. Toxicity is a rollercoaster ride of an album. At first I wasn't sure what to think of this band I was hearing through my buddies' car stereo. Over time however, I was happy to announce I was wrong for once and welcomed System Of A Down into my world. Toxicity gave us 3 singles and could easily have yielded many more in early 2001. A time when metal was fusing with rap and was in danger of becoming stale. System Of A Down's second album exploded on to the scene and turned the metal world upside down in a hurricane of destruction. Grabbing as many loyal listeners of other genres as it could. I can still put this album on and forget that a certain track is on it....a happy surprise indeed.

31. Morning View - Incubus

Incubus were always on my radar of good bands, but 2001's Morning View made me a fan. So many people in my walk of life have recommended the album to me and i simply say "Dude, I know. I own it" and then there's a brief period of nodding and awesomeness. I like when you can tell on a record that the band had an enjoyable experience recording the album and it's evident that they were getting inspired by everything around them. Even nature as exemplified by the sound of chirping frogs that close out the record. Morning View is a perfect lazy Summer's day album.

30. Good Mourning - Alkaline Trio

Alkaline Trio are great...on record. Every time i've seen them live it must have been an off night for them, but thats ok. They've got a bunch of great albums to choose from when I want to enjoy their music and 2003's Good Mourning is their best.  More punk, but with a morbid sense of humour and jacked up energy Good Mourning keeps you plugged in until the last track "Blue In The Face" which it finally slows down and lets you breathe. Something i've noticed that many of these albums i'm listing from the 2000's were released in 2003. Good year for music then yes.

29. Ganging Up On The Sun - Guster

I bought this album because of "One Man Wrecking Machine" but didn't get around to giving it a fair chance until years later. Holy hell I was missing out. Much like The Dave Matthews Band each member of Guster is a multi-talented musician and they even switch up singing duties, which makes each album sound like a mixed tape. From bongo rythmed sing alongs, to introspective alt-rock jams Ganging Up On The Sun has quickly become a staple in my car stereo. Guster have plenty of good albums, but this one tops them all for me.

28. Let It Be - The Replacements

This one is new to me but I can already tell by it's flavour that it'll be one I cherish for a long time. Getting their start as a punk band The Replacements grew wary of the punk scene due to the many rules threw at them by the scene they were apart of that they though was the "no rules" scene. They made the album Let It Be in 1984 and left the punks in their dust. They even laughed in the face of musical sacrality by naming their album the same as one of The Beatles' most popular. Though not commercially successful Let It Be was raved about by critics and fans alike. And me!

27. White Light, White Heat, White Trash - Social Distortion

This album came out in a time before downloading. So if you wanted a song you heard of the radio you had to go to the store and buy the single or the album. I lived in a smallish Northern town. We didn't get the singles, so I went out and bought a copy of White Light, White Heat, White Trash by Social Distortion. It was one of those cases where every song on the record was great. Sometimes you luck out like that and other times the album is abyssmal beyond the few singles (I'm looking at you Crazy Town).  After deciding I was a fan of the group I began to find out more about Social Distortion and liked what I read. Respected by many, even with limited mainstream play and success. This is one band on my musical bucket list I have yet to scratch's hoping there is still time!

26. In Utero - Nirvana

We all know Nevermind. We know it front and back, straight on and upside down. It's a great album yes, but to me the influences are a little over bearing on it. Like Nirvana was trying to write songs for The Pixies or Killing Joke. Incesticide  was essentially an album of covers and b-sides, a cool album, but really just something they threw out there to satisfy fans. I feel In Utero was the album Cobain, Grohl and Novoselic dreamed about making when they were young fans of music. It's sound is so fresh and raw. It's full of life and colour, like there is really something for everyone. Again one of those cases where the singles are not the best songs. Definitely my favourite Nirvana album and i'm glad Kurt was around long enough to see this album be released.

Part 2 coming soon!!!

Thanks for taking the time to read dis!

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