493 # – That’s the Way of the World – Earth, Wind & Fire

All groups have a signature sound. I try to isolate and quantify that sound. Steely Dan is quantified by their jazz/rock fusion sound. The Doors by the organ sound. Sometimes the sound cannot be described by a few words but you know it when you hear it. It’s that sound that you can hear a song that you’ve never heard before and you say “Oh, that’s so-and-so.” Some call it style but I think it goes deeper than that. It’s why I found covers of songs so interesting. You take basically the same words and the same notes and have two different groups perform the same song and you get two entirely different songs. I call it the signature sound.

I’ve been trying to figure out what the signature sound of Earth, Wind & Fire is and I just cannot wrap my arms around it. But one thing I read about hat’s the Way of the World that I couldn’t agree with more is that this album is tight. It is so well produced and so professional it is hard to find any flaw musically with it.

The musicians were some of the best I think I have heard brought together in one album.

Ironically, Rolling Stone writer Gordon Fletcher said in his 1975 review was that this album had “lousy production works to this LP’s detriment.” I beg to differ. The production on this was outstanding.

Produced in 1974 and released in 1975, this album is about 39 minutes in length.  I think it also has some of the best glockenspiel playing on the list so far.

Have mercy!

 

494 # – She’s So Unusual – Cyndi Lauper

MTV Kiddie here, so this was a blast from the past. Not much here not to like for someone who attended high school in the early 80’s. And most of it was familiar too. Although the first time I heard most of these songs, release in 1983, they were played off vinyl at Flip Side record store…and not because it was “cool” to be on vinyl either.

I digress. Clocking in at 39 minutes, the record was a fun romp. Some songs were poignant like Time After Time, while some were pure pop like Girls Just Want to Have Fun. But to me what is amazing is the strength of Cyndi Lauper as a cultural icon that refused to be steamrollered by the other icon of the time, Madonna. Face it, Madonna was a juggernaut, but Cyndi image and status held her own. And that’s saying something.

But the album itself was a huge hit earning six Grammy nominations, MTV’s best female video (for Girls Just Want to Have Fun), and winning Grammys for Best New Artist and Best Album Package.

Seriously this is a treasure trove of 80’s synth-pop. If you are jonesing for some synthesizer, just listen to She-Bop for a while Cyndi conjugates the Bop verb. You’ll be good. We bop! And if that doesn’t do it for you, I’ll Kiss You will.

Hidden Album Gem: When You Were Mine

Best Song: Time after Time

495 # – New Day Rising – Hüsker Dü

In 1986 I was stationed in Orlando, Florida and I was really starting to get into punk rock. Mostly the Dead Kennedy, Circle Jerks, Black Flag, Butthole Surfers, Suicidal Tendencies, and of course the Sex Pistols. There was a record store close to the base that had tons of alternative and punk rock and I would spend hours looking through the tapes and albums. My main “go to” punk band was Black Flag and then Circle Jerks.

I usually skipped over Hüsker Dü mostly as cash was limited and I had never heard any of their stuff.

 

#495 has corrected that. Released in 185, New Day Rising clocks in at 42 minutes.

New Day Rising is a good album and definitely earns it’s place on this list although I think I prefer my punk “purer” than this offering. Their music, at least from this sampling, seems to be an attempt to make an amalgam of two types of music. It is clear that they are trying to combine the raw drive of punk and the more mainstream rhythm and harmony of pop music. What is acheived is less than I would have hoped but still quite impressive.

I apologize was a perfect combination of raw punk angst and pop. You can feel the anger in the lyrics and the hurt and distrust and the desire to reconcile, but knowing that it is over.

Said I’m sorry, now it’s your turn,
Can you look me in the eyes and apologize?

Folkelore is a great tune, again raw and angry but I envision it being the background song for some twisted version of Schoolhouse Rock. In fact, I’d pay to see that. And I think the guys were channeling The Clash with Terms of Psychic Warfare.

But now we get to 59 Times the Pain, and now we’re tlking punk! This guy is a punk and he really detests me and you and all of this. Nice!

And the last song on the album, Plans I Make, has some of the best guitars and drumming on the entire album.

The more I listen, the more I come to appreciate Hüsker Dü

Also a lot of folks have clearly been influenced by Hüsker Dü and that I am certain that Hüsker Dü was a stable for musicians in the grunge sub-genre who were cutting their teeth on this stuff and getting ideas and turning it into their own stuff.

However some of their songs remind me of They Might Be Giants that take themselves a little to seriously like Books about UFOs and How to Skin a Cat. Please don’t misunderstand, these are good songs. It just feels a little out of place on this album.Also of note, I have read a few other reviews that have panned How to Skin a Cat and that is insane! That is an awesome punk rock song!

But over all a great album. It has the anger, the driving guitar and great drumming that really make this a great “punk” album. I would definitely listen to anotherand there are quite a few songs that I tagged to be added to a playlist.

Hidden Gem: Terms of Psychic Warfare

Best Song: Folklore

So far, so good…only one day behind. 🙂

496 # – Destroyer – Kiss

As a child of the 70’s I remember on one occasion going over to my friend Rob’s (who’s last name is lost to me now) house with some other friends. We went to his room, and closing the door, he pulled out his collection of Kiss albums. I recall he had about four or five of them. My other friends were quite familiar with Kiss and the songs they played that day. I felt awkward as I had really never hear any of the songs before. Studied the album covers in detail paticularly interested in Gene Simmons, “the demon”, and his blood soaked image on the cover of Kiss Alive. The inside with him spitting fire. The other guys just loved Kiss and seemed to know all the songs. I wanted to fit in and like Kiss with them and know the words and sing along.

The problem is, I didn’t.

I know I should have liked Kiss, but I just didn’t.

Over the years, I have grown to appriciate a few of their songs and have held out hope that someday, maybe, I would become a fan.

So when I saw Kiss was in at #496 I was hopeful that the time had come.

I am sad to report that, some 40 years later, that the appeal of Kiss still eludes me. I find them to be sophomoric and rather banal. The intrumental parts are fine, but nothing special and the lyrics are almost a mockery of themselves. Honestly it reminded me of This is Spinal Tap without the humor.

Seriously…this song should be straight off the Spinal Tap album “Smell the Glove”….

Yes, there are three songs on this album that can be identified as “Rock classics”: Beth, Detroit Rock City, and Shout it Out Loud. But honestly if I never heard any of these songs again, I could care less.

…Oh boy…the great Kiss love ballad. Meh.

Just because a lot of people like something doesn’t mean it is good. This is what I have discovered about Kiss. Sure, they have the “Kiss Army” and a few good songs, but after 40 years, I think I can safely say what I was thinking in that school friend’s bedroom 40 years ago: Kiss sucks.

To me, Rolling Stone ranked this album at least five places to high.

Kiss has a second shot at redemption with we with Kiss Alive at #159, but not holding out much hope.

Hidden Gem: none…

Best Song: Beth (I guess…)

497 # – Yo! Bum Rush the Show – Public Enemy

 

The offering today, on this lovely St. Patrick’s day, is those lads from the Emerald Isle….of Long Island New York…who can forget those crazy mop-tops, Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Hank Shocklee, Terminator X, Eric Stadler and the rest of the posse…

Suckers to the side I know you hate my 98….

 

So Yo! Bum Rush the Show was released in 1987 and clocks in at 50:48.

Okay, I admit it. As a almost-50-but-not-quite-there-thank-you-very-much white male, I had to hit urban dictionary more than once to get the meaning of some of the terms/slang Public Enemy uses on the first listen through.

Also, for me at least, the lyrics were so rapid fire that I had to google them to be able to follow along. And I’m glad I did because it really helped round out the album for me. It’s also interesting to read back about the public reaction to Chuck D and Public Enemy and see how the world has changed (not changed) since then.

Anyway, I have a passing knowledge of rap and hip-hop and not a huge fan, but as I write this, I am on my fourth listen through on this album.. The rapid fire beat a lyrics are, in a word, addictive. And, strangely, I’m finding it fun (and funny.) Which is kind of a suprise for me because, well, they are Public Enemy. I’m not really supposed to like them after all.

On to the album: I would descibe the album as angry, smart, funny and determined to be heard. But it was not as political or have as much social commentary as I expected based on my research while listening to the band. For every song like Megablast and Too Much Posse which have social commentary, there is a song like M.P.E. or Public Enemy No. 1.

But then there is Rightstarter (Message to the Black Man). If the subtly message of the other songs didn’t get you, this one will:

I’m on a mission to set you straight
Children, it’s not too late
Explain to the world when it’s plain to see
To be what the world doesn’t want us to be

 

I started marking the tracks in iTunes and I started to laugh as I was thinking to my self that I wasn’t sure if I would listen to the album again and then realized the majority of songs on the album was at least four stars, which puts in in my “Top Rated” smartlist that sychs with all devices.

Step back, get away – give the brother some room
You got to all turn me up when the beat goes boom
Lyric to lyric – line to line
Then you y’all understand my reputation for rhyme….

 

For a debut album to be included on this list is impressive indeed. Understandable why it made the list in 2003. Sadly, for some reason, it dropped off the list in the 2012 list.

 

498 # – Tres Hombres – ZZ Top

Again a blast from the MTV past, ZZ Top to me was kind of a gimmicky band. I’m beginning to think that MTV did a disservice in a way to music in that it equated personas and images over content and artistry in the music. Certainly the argument can be made that the MTV videos had their own artistry, but they tended to detract from the music.

 

Frank Beard is the guy with the little beard…

Anyway, I was familiar with Legs and Give Me All Your Loving and Sharp Dressed Man the ZZ Top Eliminator car and the hot babes in the videos. So, again, I never really listened to any ZZ Top albums or had any interest to do so.

I really do like music…honest. Sometimes I am a bit jaded by prior encounters I guess.

So today I listened to Tres Hombres by ZZ Top. Released in 1973, it has a nice Mississippi Delta blues meets early metal feel to it. La Grange was quite familiar getting quite a bit of radio play on classic rock stations. But I was surprised to find some other songs that I knew but didn’t know were ZZ Top songs. Waitin’ for the Bus and Jesus Just Left Chicago were like old acquaintances that I knew but didn’t really know much about. Getting to sit down an really listen to these songs was quite enjoyable.

But really rocked my boat was Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers. I was honestly floored when I caught that metal feel to the song. Yes, it’s bluesy, but there in no denying that metal sound.

My own biases lead me to consider ZZ Top as kind a country-rock band and kind of a gimmick act like I said. It is clear to me now they have far more depth than I ever considered. There is certainly a reason they are on this top 500 album list. I don’t think there is one song on this album I can say I don’t like. About the closest I come is Have you heard?, the last song on the album. It is very similar in blues style to other songs on the album but it seemed quite repetitive and I grew tired of it after a while. Again, not a bad song per se, just seemed like I had kind of heard very similar songs on the album already.

499 # Born Under a Bad Sign – Albert King

Albert King? Who the hell is Albert King?

Wow….How did I miss Albert King? Known as one of the “Three Kings of Blues” (along

with B.B. King and Freddie King) he was an outstanding guitarist (rated #13 on Rolling Stone’s 100 greatest guitarist list.)

And my apologies to Mr. King’s family for not knowing this awesome guitarist…

He was left handed guitarist and instead of restringing his guitar, he simply played it the way it was. This allowed him to do some insane bends (brilliantly demonstrated on the song Personal Manager) When asked who his influences were he said “Nobody. Everything I do is wrong.”

Well, this album is very right. Produced in 1967, it is a collection of tracks that Stax had and complied into an album. The title track, Born Under a Bad Sign, is the most famous on the album and arguable his most famous song in his entire career.

The last song on the album, The Very Thought of You, which has been covered by, oh, everyone is a possible one of my favorites and kind of stands alone on the album as less, um, bluesy (?) But that’s good…I’m glad the fine folks at Stax records included it as it really highlights Albert King’s vocal range.

 

And finally one song that I keep coming back to is Laundromat Blues.  When I see the title I keep thinking it is a “throwaway song” used to fill the album up (as the entire album is only 35 minutes long) but then halfway into it I realize this is an awesome track.  Bumped up to five stars in iTunes so I don’t keep forgetting how good this song is.

 

#500 – Touch – Eurythmics

As a child of MTV in the 80’s, Annie Lennox was one of the queens of MTV in the early days. But the Eurythmics always seemed to be a little to smart for their audience. Still Annie Lennox’s haunting voice is unmistakable and has almost a mystical quality to it.

Released in 1983 (one of the best years, in my humble opinion) I was familiar with a couple of the songs on the album (Here Comes the Rain Again which was inescapable in 1983 on MTV with it’s cows and synthesizers and third-eye Hindu flavor and Who’s That Girl which was well played if not as well received.)

But this album had quite a few hidden gems in it. No Fear, No Hate, No Pain (No Broken Hearts) and it’s reprise of the sound from Here Comes the Rain Again was interesting as was Regrets. And Right By Your Side surprised me with it’s reggae sounds (as I was expecting only overwhelming Indian influences based on the videos.)

This was a good album to start this musical journey. I listened to is twice through and at no time did I have that “ugh…when will this song be over…” thought.

Looking at the list there seems to be quite a bit of Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. Not really a fan of either of those gents and not looking forward to slugging it through those albums…

Rolling Stones Top 500 Albums of All time project

Hey there!!!

I am a huge music lover and I like to think that I have pretty diverse tastes. But I have come to a point where it seems that I am listening to the same music over and over again. I want to broaden my horizions a bit, but I wasn’t sure where to start.

So I turned to Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time to help broaden my horizons. Yes, it is male-testestorne driven and yes, it is Anglo-American-centric. So what? My project…deal with it.

I am going to listen to them in reverse order and give a short review of each.

Feel free to play/listen along with me.

Apple Support is now just a bad joke

Anyone that reads this blog knows I am an Apple fanboy.  And I still am in most respect, but there is one area that the Apple has lost it’s shine:  tech support.

Back a few years ago, Apple support was one of the best around.  If you had an issue, you could be relitively certain that before all was said and done, the issues would be fixed.  And for good reason: you paid for the support.  Nothing was free, but what you paid for you usually got.

It seems, however, with the passing of Steve Jobs, that level of support has also passed.  Now when I call all I get is poorly informed “techs” who know nearly nothing about the products they manufacture.  

My mort recent run-in with the Apple folks is regarding a headless (AKA remote) install of OS X server.

The first woman that was on the phone with me insisted that I had to set up the server initially before I could remotely set it up.  I’m going to say that again to let it sink in:  In order to do a remote setup of an OS X server, I would fist need to set it up locally and then I could set it up remotely.

I told her she was wrongs and that was not the intend function of the remote set up.  She said, yes, that is how it worked.  So I quoted to her from their own web site:

I asked her to read along with me:  “You can set up a new Mac mini Server or Mac Pro with OS X Server by connecting to it via Screen Sharing or Apple Remote Desktop.”

She said, yes, that was true, but you needed to set it up with a monitor and keyboard first.

“A-ha!” I said….”please continue reading with me…stay with me on this”


“See where it says you don’t need a screen or keyboard?”

“Well, yes,” she says, “but that’s after you set it up initially with screen sharing.  That you have to do locally.”
“Really?” I question “Because that’s not how it worked in the class I took.  And reading a little further on the page it says…”

“Please hold”

After a while she came back and told me that this feature was no longer supported.  I questioned that and asked her to show me where it stated that this was no longer support.  On hold for about 20 minutes and she came back and said “I just confirmed that this is no longer supported.”

“Great.  Where is the documentation that states this wildly beneficial feature is no longer available on Mac server?”

“Ummmm….please hold.”

Ten minutes later she returns with a “Senior tech” on the line (this is already after being transfered to the “Enterprise support” department) who states that this “headless install is not supported after 10.7.”

“Really?  Because the date on the web page is December 16, 2013…long after 10.7 was gone. “

“So…” I continue,”either the web page, the class, and the test I just took are wrong, or you are.  Which is it?”

“Please hold.”

About 10 minutes later he returned.  “Hey Ed, yeah, sorry about that.  I forgot that was a feature in this version.”

So finally we began troubleshooting the issue (50+ minutes after I initated the call.  Please remember that to this point all I am doing is convincing the Enterprise support group that the server OS has a feature they don’t even know about.

So now we are rolling on getting a solution to this issue.  Suffice to say, he checked pretty much everything I checked.  A few more holds and he comes back and says “Is this server local?”  I tell him it is on the local network.

“No.  I mean is the server on site there?”

“No.  It is remote.  That’s why I am trying to do a remote install.”

“Oh, well we only support devices that are on the local site.”

I say “So what you are telling me is that you cannot support me doing a remote install because the remote computer isn’t local?”

“Yes.”

“Seriously?  That’s what you are telling me?  You can’t help someone remotely install an server, which is a feature of the opeation system, because the remote system isn’t local?”

“Correct.”

“And you are comforatable telling this to a customer?”

“I’m sorry, but that’s our policy.”

So, kids, remember…when trying to set up that remote Mac server, make sure the remote location is local….

Sheesh!  Apple is really sliding down hill…

So glad I wasted the $3000 on the Apple Helpdesk support.  I’ll be sure not to make that mistake again.