Monday, 9 June 2014

Johnny Zhivago's 50 Favourite Albums Part 2 (25-1)

25. Boston - Boston

Often viewed as one of the best debut albums of all time Boston's self-titled album is one of those records that simply refuses to come off the turn tables. I remember going to buy this album for my dad for his birthday or Christmas and just ended up keeping it for myself. Being chalk full of classic Rock & Roll tracks Boston cemented themselves among the great American groups of the '70's with catchy riffs, blazing guitar solos and mind-boggling vocal range from lead man Brad Delp.

24. Searching For A Former Clarity - Against Me!

Against Me!'s first take at a concept album of sorts ...Former Clarity was the album that set up my standing order to pick up any Against Me! album even if I hadn't heard one song from it yet. Where their 2nd album was an obvious shift from their debut Reinventing Axl Rose, on Searching For A Former Clarity the band goes even deeper. Longer, more melodic songs become the norm while blitzkrieg-esque punk anthems are in short supply, however by the time the final track....the title track...clicks by a short breath is all you need before you need to listen to it again.

23. Led Zeppelin IV - Led Zeppelin

Black Dog. Rock and Roll. The Battle Of Evermore. Stairway To Heaven. Misty Mountain Hop. Four Sticks. Going To California. When The Levee Breaks.

Need I really say more?

22. The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me - Brand New

Brand New's departure album. It continued down the path that their previous album Deja Entendu set them on and away from their emo/pop punk origins. It is widely viewed as Brand New's best...and it almost turned out completely different. Being released in 2006 the band started recording the album in 2005. Soon after the tracks they were working on were leaked on to the internet and spread around via p2p websites.  At the time it affected some members of the band and they scrapped the demos and began work on new material which would eventually become the album. When I got this CD I was excited for the content but also the booklet to maybe get some insight as to what some of the songs are about, only to find that there is no booklet. Just the album cover and a picture of a young lad with an explorer guitar. The title and band name does not appear anywhere on the album cover either.

21. Wish You Were Here - Pink Floyd

When people talk about Pink Floyd and their albums it's usually The Wall or Dark Side Of The Moon that get the nod for their best. 1975's Wish You Were Here has always been the one for me. Those other 2 are great for sure, but there is something about Wish You Were Here.  Maybe it's that there are only 5 tracks on the album (with 2 being the "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" opus). Maybe it's the obvious references to former Floyd member Syd Barrett, and how most of the words are almost a lament for him. This album has always resonated well with me.  And here it sits at 22

20. Static Age - Misfits

It's dirty, it's raw, it's brutal, it's fucking bad-ass. The songs that would be released on 1997's Static Age were actually recorded back in 1978 and should have been released as their debut. Though the band couldn't find a label to release it, the quick and explosive tracks would be released as B-sides and live recordings over the early years of The Misfits. They won 30 hours of studio time with a major label recording studio in exchange for the use of the name of Glenn Danzig's Blank records. Sid Vicious' mother would visit the studio during the midnight sessions, invited by Danzig himself. Her son had OD'd the night before and Glenn didn't want her to be alone....pretty compassionate for the guy who wrote "Bullet". This is the one album on this list that I do own on vinyl.

19. Silver - Moist

For a long time I considered Moist my second favourite band. They broke up in 2001 and have since fallen down the list, but it was albums like 1996's Creature and 1994's Silver that put them on the radar and keep them there still to this day. It's one of those albums that every song could have been a single and every week I had a new favourite track from it. Since they were from Canada there were many opportunities for me to see them live. They came to my home town a bunch of times. One of my first trips to a music festival was to see them at Edgefest in Ottawa (my first crowd surfing experience) and I saw a few members at a McDonald's on the 400 Highway. Don't think I haven't retold those stories again and again.

18. Iowa - Slipknot

Big time Slipknot fan and please believe it was a task to only have one album on the list, but Iowa came around at a very musically rich time of my life and I still associate many of the songs from it with some very happy memories. That is a great feature that music can have, maybe the songs weren't ultra successful or the band never won any accolades, but if the songs awaken something inside and are powerful enough to invoke real feelings then they've done their job. And those moments become more for you. Strange to associate songs off of Iowa with happy memories as much of the subject material is definitely from a dark place in Corey Taylor's life. Thats his gift to his listeners and I thank him for it.

17. Absolution - Muse

I've said it before and i'll say it again 2003 was a great year for music. Muse's Absolution felt like it was from the future and here now in 2014 I still think these songs hold up as good as any. "Time Is Running Out" was my pick for song of the year back in 2003. It blew my away with it's hard hitting bass and body-moving grooves. Almost sexual. Kind of like Radiohead after chugging a val love potion number 9. Thankfully the rest of the album was just as amazing and diverse. Songs raging from James Bond-esque spy themes to downright hard rock. Absolution was Muse's launching pad. Plain and simple.

16. O - Damien Rice

Definitely the shortest album title on this list, but Damien Rice's O is rich and full of joyous melodies, and acoustic treasures. Another album where many of it's songs whisk me back to a wet, hot Canadian summer. Rice actually produced this album himself and wished to release it without the aid of a major record label. Insert a joke about Irish stubborness if you will but when the songs are as good as they are here, who needs the help?

15. Everything I Long For - Hayden

A wonderful piece of Canadiana and a great debut from an at the time, up and coming musician. Though some of the songs from the album were written and released on an independent EP "In September" Hayden's major label debut Everything I Long For opened the door for many acoustic artists and got Hayden widespread attention. Especially the song "Bad As They Seem" which even got played on MTV at the time.

14. The '59 Sound - The Gaslight Anthem

When i'm about to go on an epic drive through the city or a long roadtrip with a few companions and I need a good driving album to go along with the journey I don't look much farther than The '59 Sound by The Gaslight Anthem. I got lucky with this one. Bought it on a whim as I caught the end of one of their sets and was midly impressed. Also a few people I knew talked about them or rather I recognized the name because they threw it around now and then and finally I was curious if the song "High Lonesome" was a cover of the song by the same name by Avail. Still to this day one of the best random purchase albums. Through and through, start to end it's a fantastic album. One of the best from that decade (2000s) and timeless songs inspired by girls, cars, Jersey nights, Springsteen and Seger.

13. Julie Blue - Joe Purdy

Some albums are not only enjoyable because all the music on it is fantastic, but the circumstances under which they were written and recorded is just plain cool. Joe Purdy's river record Julie Blue was written and recorded over the period of a weeks while he rented out a small cabin on a river in upstate New York. Nothing but himself, some equipment and the nature around him to be inspired by. Thats something I would love to do, find something to be inspired by and just surround yourself by it and see what comes out.

12. Yield - Pearl Jam

Yield was kind of the resurgence of Pearl Jam in the 90's. Sure Vs and Vitalogy had some classic PJ tunes on them, but Yield was promoted and featured heavily on radio. They even made a video for "Do The Evolution" something band hadn't done since 1992's "Oceans". Again, this one reminds me of a certain time in my life when my and a buddy were too young for bars and niteclubs, but old enough to be restless and obsessed with girls. With precious else to do with all of our awkwardness and teen angst we'd cruise around on hot summer nights and blast songs like "No Way", "Brain Of J" and "Given To Fly" into the ether. It was a simpler time in some respects. I hope kids nowadays can still connect to moments like that.

11. Master Of Puppets - Metallica

Maybe you thought i'd forget about Metallica. Never! My boys!! The very birth of Thrash Metal when Master Of Puppets  hit in 1986 every other metal band in the world knew they'd be competing to be #2. Even Ozzy noticed the crowd got smaller after Metallica left the stage when they opened for him. Not a misstep anywhere on this flawless piece of music. A staple on almost any greatest album list ever done. It also invokes a little sadness as it would be Metallica's proto-typical bass player Cliff Burton's final work. He would be killed in a bus crash during their European leg of the Master Of Puppets tour. Listen for his swan song on the album entitled "Orion".

10. The Bends - Radiohead

Here we go the top ten! This is not going to be easy, but I knew The Bends had to be in there, one of the quintessential albums from the 1990's. Even if you aren't a fan of the direction Radiohead would go in shortly after this album's release there is a song on it for you. Guaranteed. I picked it up for the same reason most people did, because I liked "High and Dry" or "Street Spirit" but as the tracks continue it becomes impossible to skip them and you realize you just listened to 48 minutes of Radiohead and enjoyed it.

9. Violence Has Arrived - Gwar

Many of you might just scoff at this, but I meant it when I say i'm a Gwar fan. Not just trying to be ironic or hipsterific. Violence Has Arrived has impressed me on many levels. Maybe Gwar was trying to make a tongue in cheek album and yes there are those moments to be found here, but they also pulled together some of the most impressively written and cohesive metal songs in recent history. "Immortal Corruptor" is just that: immortal, it stood strong against other hard rock and metal songs of it's era and still does. "Biledriver", "Beauteous Rot" and "Licksore" are other speedy and thrashy gems to bang along too. Gwar's best album and one Dave Brockie should be proud to be remembered for.

8. Ride The Lightning - Metallica

Can't keep them down! While Master Of Puppets was more critically acclaimed I always like Ride The Lightning a little more. It has more of my favourite Metallica songs on it ("For Whom The Bell Tolls", "Trapped Under Ice") and it's got some intense moments. Like James' screeching in the title track where it seems he's still trying to find his ranges in his singing voice. The hyper-fast "Fight Fire With Fire" and of course "Fade To Black" which is a staple of Metallica shows to this day. I will say that I prefer the instrumental track on Puppets more than "Call of Ktulu" on Ride The Lightning. This is the album from where they got their perfect album making formula. Many bands did. This is also the Metallica album that I have the most shirts from....three I believe and I saw them play this one live in it's entirety. That's right it may have been the first time (only time?) in history that they'll ever play the dreaded song "Escape"

7. Creature - Moist

The more I thought about this one the higher I wanted to put it. This is definitely the album every Moist fan should have, I know many people still favour Silver but for me this is where Moist showed their brilliant song writing prowess. From the high energy beginnings of "Hate" and "Resurrection" to the gloomy piano track "Disco Days" there is not a dull moment. Maybe a few moments where David Usher and co. allow the chance to wipe the sweat from your brow before drilling "Shotgun"'s bassline into your head. Every tracked is placed perfectly and performed with energy on the track which you can feel. This album is a huge reason why Moist still holds a dear place in my heart.

6. Pink Moon - Nick Drake

Sadly Nick Drake never got to see the heights of popularity his albums would eventually get to as they only started to gain an audience almost twenty years after his death. Pink Moon was his final, haunting recording. He'd go into the studio with just his guitar (unlike previous albums which featured full bands) and put shear heaven on to tape. He was not interested in marketing his work and was shy and not very confident on stage which led to little awareness of his albums. It's a shame really. Has there been such a beautiful combination of finger plucked guitar and piercing yet familiar vocals? I say not. It's the album I had in mind when I recorded an album with merely a guitar in hand....not that mine came any where close to this perfect.

5. The Closer I Get - Hayden

I love the album cover artwork for The Closer I Get. Combined with the songs it's a masterpiece of Canadian music. If Hayden stopped after this album was released I truly believe he'd still be viewed as a folk hero of Canadian music. A great mix of songs with a full band backing him up and chilling tunes with Hayden left alone with his guitar. This is Hayden's Pink Moon. His Harvest. His heart and soul.

4. Ten - Pearl Jam

Speaking of perfect albums. This is an album that PhDs could be written on, clocks could be set to and disputes could be settled over. Ten really stands alone among the other Pearl Jam albums. It's like they burned the studio and salted the earth after they released it. Forcing them to not try and duplicate it's blueprint. It blew audiences and critics away alike and was truly a musical manifesto for a young generation.
Ten was named after Mookie Blaylock's jersey number a former NBA player who Pearl Jam was a fan of and in turn Blaylock became a fan of the band. Man, I really should just post the whole album here...

3. Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV - Coheed & Cambria

The Afterman: Part 1 gets an honourable mention as does In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth: 3, but for me Coheed and Cambria's best album is their third. Good, Apollo. The full title is much longer than even the one I have high lighted up there. It's got sweet songs ("Wake Up", "Always & Never"), dark songs ("Welcome Home", "Once Upon Your Dead Body") and straight up rock tunes ("The Suffering", "Ten Speed" and "Apollo I"). It showcases every cool aspect about the band: Musical proficiency man, check out the solos on this thing. The continuing story line of all Coheed's work, though the story takes an odd twist here, it definitely keeps things fresh. I think i'm going to go listen to it now.

2. As The Eternal Cowboy - Against Me!

When I got this album it stayed in my car for a whole summer. It would play in it's entirety once a day on my commute to and from work. I couldn't get enough. It blew me away. Here's a band known for there out of control and in your face hardcore music and it this album ends with one of the best acoustic songs ever written. Early on I decided this would be one of my desert island albums and it's one that I lend out to fellow music appreciators the most. As The Eternal Cowboy made me an Against Me! fan and that i'll always be.

Alright before I get to the number one album I have to list off some albums that almost made the cut. Here are some honourable mentions!

- Clumsy, Our Lady Peace
- Evil Empire, Rage Against The Machine
- Folklore, Nelly Furtado
- Lateralus, Tool
- Harvest, Neil Young
- Pinkerton, Weezer
- Automatic Midnight, Hot Snakes
- Aesop Rock, None Shall Pass
- American Pie, Don McLean

Alright I could go on forever...but let's find out what my favourite album of all time is...

1. Load - Metallica

Is it any wonder? A little history here. I came from a small town in Northern Canada. We had 3 radio stations, 2 easy listening and 1 country. My family had no cable and i only really heard interesting music when my friends would lend me a tape or something. Then came 1996. We finally got a rock radio station and my parents had cable installed so I was able to tune into Much Music! I was surrounded and bombarded by new music for a whole Summer...I could finally join in the discussion and be up to speed. For my birthday my parents got me a CD player and told me to pick one CD to go with it. "Until It Sleeps" had caught my attention so I chose Load. And thus began my musical journey. I lucked out that every song was incredible. I wanted to get a guitar and play along. I wanted to be James Hetfield. I wanted to see if all music was as awe-inspiring as this. I was hooked and there was no turning back. Now, I know some purists...hell even some casual readers might be lol-ing their heads off at the Metallica and Load of all albums, but it still stands the test of time. Songs like "Outlaw Torn", "Bleeding Me" and "Mama Said" are pure emotion. Something modern music often lacks. "Until It Sleeps" and "King Nothing" should be right up there as 90's staples with Nirvana and Pearl Jam. And personally without this album I never would have taken the musical journey I did. I wouldn't be aware of all these fantastic songs on all these albums. And I definitely wouldn't be sharing them with all of you. Do not be afraid to let your preferences be known. Stand with them and be proud. They are more a part of you than you might realize.

Thanks again as always for reading!

It was quite a journey! I hear my old friend Rob Reid has seen this list and is about to let us know what his Top 50 albums are! I'll keep ya posted on that!

Until then...grab an album you haven't listened to in a while, put it on and disconnect for a bit. If at least for an hour. You've got plenty to spare.

Johnny Zhivago (The original Jay Zed)

@jonnyzhivago <---- Twitterssss

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