Guest Blogger: Uncle E’s Musical Nightmares
Philbert’s Note: In an effort to keep Philbertosophy readers from being bored to tears, we’re instituting a “Guest Blogger” feature. First up is the infamous Uncle E, music blogger extroidinaire. Herein is his offering citing some of his fav0rite tunes. You can visit his blog by clicking the link on the right (under the “With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemas?” heading). Take it, Unc!
It is extremely hard to find someone who shares your absolute obsession with music. Most folks like music, but it’s been my experience that very few love music.
I don’t know about all of you, but finding like-minded music fan-addicts in the real world (as opposed to the Matrix-like cyber world) is a rare and difficult thing. I can count on one hand the amount of friends that have shared my passion/obsession for quality tuneage. My tastes are eclectic and varied, some would say weird, ranging from the very odd and left-of-the-dial type stuff to folk, punk and pop and even a little country (but nothing released after 1970). I have met many music fans but most stick to one of maybe two genres at the most. Prog fans are the worst. They rarely deviate from that particular style and are very reticent to try anything else. And God help the individual that tries to debate the merits of Spock’s Beard
to the born again proghead. I myself have been at the receiving end of their wrath and it’s not a fun place to be. Then again, it is a little fun.
This is why I continue to do a music blog. I have met many music aficionados who have introduced scores of great bands and artists to me over the years and many of their recommendations have become favorites. The “how the fuck have I gone 40+ years and not known about (Band X/ArtistZ)” moments have been many and I really appreciate it.
My interaction with Phil has been fruitful, to say the least. He has opened up my eyes to many an artist and I hope I have opened his to a few as well. Here, then, are my Top 10 Albums that Philbert has introduced to me over the years that have become heavy rotation favorites of mine.
#1. The Best Of Jim Croce; #2. American Fool, by Johnny Cougar; #3…just kidding, the real list is below.
#10. The Velvet Underground, “White Light/White Heat”: It’s weird, but I owned the VU’s debut (the banana album), their self titled third, and their last, Loaded, but for some reason or another I have never owned a copy of White Light/White Heat. I think if I’m honest, the 17+ minute noise fest that is Sister Ray kind of intimidated me a bit and kept me from embracing this album. I’m not adverse to experimentation; far from it. A lot of my favorite albums would be considered weird, strange and experimental as a matter of pure fact. When I listened to this album, really listened, it finally made its mark. It’s abrasive but there’s real beauty here as well. Allmusic sums it up best when it states that “White Light/White Heat was a no-holds-barred frontal assault on cultural and aesthetic propriety.”
#9. Moby Grape, “Moby Grape”: Probably one of the best psychedelic garage bands who released one, perfect album back in 1967. Marketing mishaps, band issues and a whole boatload of legal problems managed to bury this release for decades, but its blend of straight ahead rock and roll, mixed with blues and folk rock, has seen a resurgence in its popularity, thanks primarily to excellent word of mouth from the few fans, like Phil, who bought it and recognized its brilliance when it was released.
#8. Love, “Forever Changes”: I was first made aware of the band Love through an excellent cover version of their ‘hit’ song Alone Again Or… by the band Calexico. When Phil burned me a copy of the original parent album, “Forever Changes”, it really kind of fucked me up. This album still sounds way ahead of its time. It’s definitely a ‘60’s album, but chief songwriter/resident mad genius Arther Lee mixed so many weird influences so seamlessly here that, in my humble opinion, it transcends the time it was released. Alone Again… wasn’t the only standout, either: Bummer In The Summer, A House Is Not A Motel and Live and Let Live are equally magnificent. Like many great albums it was virtually ignored upon its release, but has risen in stature over the years due to (again!) word of mouth and some key modern bands paying homage to it via interviews, etc.
#7. The Zombies, “Odessey and Oracle”: Another forgotten classic this, and a bit of a sad story. The band, after penning one classic hit in She’s Not There decided to call it a day and went all out with this, their swansong. Of course it was ignored, until 2 years later when Time Of The Season became a smash hit, but it was too late for the poor Zombies by that time. Odyssey and Oracle remains a baroque classic in the best sense and remains a wonderful artifact of the 1960’s.
#6. The Band, “Songs From Big Pink”: I have always loved The Weight and it has remained in my top 5 songs of all time for decades. Prior to listening to this album I only knew 2 things about The Band: that the majority of the guys were Canadians, and that they were Bob Dylan’s backing band at one point. I knew a few other songs of course, such as The Day They Drove Old Dixie Down, I Shall Be Released and, of course, Up On Cripple Creek. But I had never spent time listening to any of their albums from start to finish, until Uncle Philbert came to work one day and handed me a copy. It is truly an amazing album; it was so influential that the music industry had to come up with a new genre to identify it: Americana.
#5. Nick Cave, “Dig!! Lazarus Dig!!!” This wasn’t the first Nick Cave album Philbert introduced to me, but out of Cave’s entire, massive discography it’s the one I come back to time and time again. For someone who started out as a second rate goth pioneer in the ‘80’s Mr. Nick sure has made a lot of advances in his music and in the process has ensured his place in the Seriously Great Rock Artiste category. “Abattoir Blues/ Lyre Of Orpheus”, which contains the classics Messiah Ward and Get Ready For Love is a tremendous late period release, but DLD, released in 2008 shows Cave in fine form, teaching all the young pretenders to the throne how it’s really done. It’s an extremely edgy record full of enough sonic twists and turns to keep one intrigued enough to keep coming back over and over again. He’s been releasing solo albums since 1983 and is showing no signs of slowing down, thankfully. The world needs guys like him.
#4. Leonard Cohen, “Songs Of Leonard Cohen”: Opener Suzanne knocked me for a loop when I first heard it, and although Phil wouldn’t want to admit it Cohen had a large part to play in the whole emo/goth movement of the early ‘80’s. Jesus, one of the leading goth/ industrial/ doom bands, The Sisters Of Mercy, took their moniker from one of his more famous songs from this album. Running neck and neck with this release has to be Songs Of Love and Hate, another wonderfully subdued and powerful set of songs. One last thought: even though Jeff Buckley’s version of Hallelujah is now widely considered the “definitive” one, it is not. In my opinion it lacks some of the subtlety of the original, located on ‘85’s ‘Various Positions’.
#3. Bob Dylan, “John Wesley Harding”: I was, of course, familiar with a huge chunk of Dylan’s discography and more than a little aware of his brilliance and influence over the decades. But I wasn’t familiar with this album, bar All Along The Watchtower. That song is great, of course, but in my opinion not even close to the best this platter has to offer. One of my all time favorite Dylan songs is on this album, and that’s The Ballad Of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest. I still don’t understand what the fuck he’s talkin’ ‘bout here, but I really don’t give a shit. It’s amazing. Dear Landlord, I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight, the title track, As I Went Out One Morning… the list of excellent songs on display here just goes on and on and on. It is, without a doubt, a perfect 10.
#2. John Prine, “Bruised Orange”: Man, I could have picked any number of albums by this dude. “The Missing Years”, “Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings”, the debut; but “bruised Orange”, from 1978, remains my personal favorite. The songs here are just so damn strong. Fish and Whistle, There She Goes, That’s The Way That The World Goes Round, the title track, every damn one of them has that back porch charm that just does it for me. Finding John Prine, like finding Nick Lowe, has been a real treat. Someday his genius will be acknowledged.
#1. Nick Lowe, “Jesus Of Cool”: Being introduced to Jesus Of Cool is one of those moments every music fanatic dreams about. Finding a forgotten gem like this started an obsession, and I have Phil to thank for it. One thing that Philbert always tries to do is offer a little history and back story to each release he gives me, and it definitely adds context and makes the whole experience more…well…whole. JOC is one of the most eclectic albums in the history of pop music, blending rockabilly, classic ‘50’s pop, disco and even a touch of new wave seamlessly. Its stature has risen so much with me that it has resided in my personal top 10 records of all time for the last 5 years, and I can’t imagine it’ll budge much in the next 5. Or 10. Or 20…