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Bon Jovi – Slippery When Wet (1986)

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Unbelievable USA logo by Sarca @ caughtmegaming

USA Artists: Aimee Mann, Marty Robbins, D’Angelo, The Modern Lovers, Bruce Springsteen, Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott, Steely Dan, Grant Lee Buffalo, 2Pac, Harry Nilsson, Linkin Park, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Randy Newman, The Monkees, Liz Phair, The Byrds, Anita Baker, Circle Jerks, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Wilco, Bon Jovi

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[Album 501A/1001]

Let’s go track-by-track, starting with side one.

1. Let it Rock
Ever wondered what you’d get by combining Van Halen’s 1984 & Joan Jett’s I Love Rock & Roll in a Bon Jovi mixing bowl? Wonder no more! Appropriate choice for the opener, somewhat of an amuse bouche for the anthems to follow.

2. You Give Love a Bad Name
Maybe the best fist-raised-in-the-air chorus in recent memory. Or at least, second best…

3. Livin’ on a Prayer220px-Bon_jovi_slippery_when_wet.jpg
…behind this one. How Jon Bon somehow hits those notes after the key change will never cease to amaze me.

4. Social Disease
The horns scream “Bruce Fairbairn production” and I couldn’t be less offended by ’em. Apparently the album was recorded in Fairbairn’s hometown of Vancouver, bonus!

5. Wanted Dead or Alive
Listeners would be forgiven for thinking this was a Greatest Hits compilation, few studio albums contain so many massive tracks on one album, let alone the first side.

Speaking of having trouble distinguishing between things, in case anyone was having trouble telling 2016 me & 1986 JBJ apart…

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And that’s all for an impressive Bon Jovi side one.

With this half of a review in the books, that brings my total to 500.5 albums so far.

Conveniently, tomorrow also happens to be the 5th Anniversary of this project, or 500.5 albums in 5 years. The exact midpoint of my 1001albumsin10years project.

So it is my absolute pleasure to finally be able to quote Bon Jovi:

Whoa, We’re Halfway There!

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Verbalize the Positive

An enormous thank you to everyone who has participated in this journey. I’m not sure how it happened, but I’m quite fortunate that I stumbled into a fantastic blogging community & I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this whole experience.

Here’s to another 500.5 albums in 5 years!

 

Wilco – Being There (1996)

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Unbelievable USA logo by Sarca @ caughtmegaming

USA Artists (so far): Aimee Mann, Marty Robbins, D’Angelo, The Modern Lovers, Bruce Springsteen, Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott, Steely Dan, Grant Lee Buffalo, 2Pac, Harry Nilsson, Linkin Park, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Randy Newman, The Monkees, Liz Phair, The Byrds, Anita Baker, Circle Jerks, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Wilco

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[Album 500/1001]

It’s Wilco’s fault that I started the 1001 project.

Or at the very least, if not entirely culpable, they were certainly a catalyst.

I can picture myself in mid-2011, listening to Summerteeth repeatedly, thinking to myself, now this is Music. Man, do I ever I know what I like!

Which isn’t an incorrect observation, per se.

But I eventually came to an important and somewhat frightening realization: I’ve started to put up walls.

My mind was starting to close, my willingness to explore different artists was dwindling, statements bemoaning the state of 21st Century music like, “There hasn’t been a great album since OK Computer,” were being made all too frequently by yours truly.

Yes I knew what I liked; but more accurately, I liked what I knew.

So for the last 5 years, beloved albums like Being There have been ignored in favour of a whole lotta new album exploration.

500 albums later, Wilco, it’s wonderful to be back. Let’s never fight again!

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Jeff Tweedy + Parks & Rec = As amazing as you’d think

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being-there

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Do you prefer Outtasite (Outtamind) or Outta Mind (Outta Sight)?

Believe it or not, these are 2 separate tracks on Being There.

While I’ve always held the former in high regard, I used to be offended by the latter.

Outta Mind is essentially a remix, but not your teenager’s remix. It’s more like your toddler’s remix; if you can somehow not sing the theme to Sesame Street over the first few notes, you’re stronger than I’ll ever be.

Though five years later, I’m no longer offended by the Sesame Street-esque feel. Now it just feels like my music & my kids’ music are colliding!

But the track wordplay got me thinking about how I’d somehow gone 5 years betweewilco-beingtheren listens.

Was Being There stuck on the shelf:

a) Because it was buried with the ‘W’ artists & I didn’t think of it (outtasite, therefore outta mind)

or

b) Because I wasn’t thinking of Wilco & was overlooked as a result (outta mind, therefore outta sight)

As it often is, it’s probably a little from column A, a little from column B.

Either way, it shan’t be stuck on the shelf for half a decade again!

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Verbalize the Positive

I appreciate that in a recent review, Jimmy @ KingCrimsonProg decided an album was a good one if it was “an album I’ll be listening to in five years time.” And it was such a neat album evaluation metric, I simply had to borrow it – cheers Jimmy!

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (1976)

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Unbelievable USA logo by Sarca @ caughtmegaming

USA Artists (so far): Aimee Mann, Marty Robbins, D’Angelo, The Modern Lovers, Bruce Springsteen, Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott, Steely Dan, Grant Lee Buffalo, 2Pac, Harry Nilsson, Linkin Park, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Randy Newman, The Monkees, Liz Phair, The Byrds, Anita Baker, Circle Jerks, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

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[Album 499/1001]

“He plays fast, but he never rushes”
– My colleague Mike, quoting someone else (whom I’ve since forgotten) that was praising Tom Petty. Talk about proper bibliography formatting!

As I type, I’ve got the Penguins/Devils* game playing in the background.**

And I’ve realized something: my favourite Pittsburgh Penguin not-named-Sidney Crosby might be Matt Cullen.

Born in the USA on November 2, 1976, Cullen is still one of the most reliable & consistent players in the NHL.

He’s not flashy but he plays to his strengths; with his linemates, he always plays an high-tempo, tight-checking game.

Though you may not see too many fans wearing his jersey, he’s among the most respected athletes in the league.

Even though he celebrated his 40th birthday early this month, he’s a very fast skater, yet his decision-making with the puck never seems rushed.

Terms like underrated & underappreciated spring to mind.

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I’ve had a second realization: my favourite 70s solo artist not-named-David Bowie might be Tom Petty.

His first album, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, was released on November 9, 1976 (one week off, so close!). This self-titled debut marked the beginning of a remarkabl220px-tompettydebutcovery consistent career, and he remains among the most reliable performers in the music industry.

Petty is never flashy but he plays to his strengths; with his bandmates, The Heartbreakers, the performances are up-tempo & the song arrangements are always tight.

Though you may not see too many fans wearing his T-shirts, he’s among the most respected musicians in the business.

As this album celebrated its 40th Anniversary earlier this month, terms like underrated & underappreciated still somehow spring to mind.

Finally, especially on tunes like American Girl heard here, Tom Petty proves he is more than deserving of the post-opening compliment: he plays fast, but never rushes.

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*The New Jersey Devils, or as David Puddy would say, The Devils, The Devils! (thanks W for the reminder :D)

**Good news, Pittsburgh ended up winning 4-3 in a shootout!

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Verbalize the Positive

I appreciate that Zack @ The Audible Stew introduced me to his Smoke on the Water Principle (SWP). The SWP theory, where an artist wisely chooses to play a simple yet effective riff instead of an elaborate one, would certainly apply to Tom Petty. I imagine countless people have picked up an acoustic guitar and Free Fallin’ was among the first tunes they played.

Also, like Matt Cullen & Tom Petty, though Zack may type quickly, his writing never feels rushed!

Circle Jerks – Group Sex (1980)

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Unbelievable USA logo by Sarca @ caughtmegaming

USA Artists (so far): Aimee Mann, Marty Robbins, D’Angelo, The Modern Lovers, Bruce Springsteen, Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott, Steely Dan, Grant Lee Buffalo, 2Pac, Harry Nilsson, Linkin Park, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Randy Newman, The Monkees, Liz Phair, The Byrds, Anita Baker, Circle Jerks

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[Album 498/1001]

Say what you will about the band name. About the album name. About some of the track names. About many of the lyrics…

But I will say this: when I make a rule that I have to listen to an album at least twice before reviewing, while also trying to meet a self-imposed deadline of 501 album reviews by November 30th, I thoroughly appreciate bands that can run through 14 songs in just over 15 minutes!

Now I may know less about hardcore punk than anyone else. But I’m guessing ‘achieving widespread acceptance’ wasn’t exactly the ethos of the genre.

In a way, someone like me finding good things to say could be perceived as bad news by the band!220px-circle_jerks_-_group_sex

But I’m afraid thanks to the exemplary running time, regardless of the content of the album itself, this one has become critically immune for me.

If you’ve seen the response that Fozzie Bear’s speech receives in The Muppet Christmas Carol, you’ll know what I mean.

The Circle Jerks are Fozzie Bear (obviously?) & I’m both Statler & Waldorf, the balcony hecklers.

And despite any concerns about what was actually said/played on this record, I can’t help but approve.

“It was short? I loved it!”

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Verbalize the Positive

Compared to the album & artist names that Heavy Metal Overload (HMO) listens to, these guys seem relatively tame!

I appreciate that while we have considerably different ‘wheelhouses’ (Black Metal vs. Sad Bastard Rock), I’m always entertained when reading HMO’s posts & comments and I’ve enjoyed finding unanticipated common ground, like Rod Stewart & Frankie Goes to Hollywood!

Anita Baker – Rapture (1986)

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Unbelievable USA logo by Sarca @ caughtmegaming

USA Artists (so far): Aimee Mann, Marty Robbins, D’Angelo, The Modern Lovers, Bruce Springsteen, Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott, Steely Dan, Grant Lee Buffalo, 2Pac, Harry Nilsson, Linkin Park, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Randy Newman, The Monkees, Liz Phair, The Byrds, Anita Baker

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[Album 497/1001]

“I am fast. To give you a reference point, I’m somewhere between a snake and a mongoose.”
– Dwight Kurt Schrute, The (US) Office, S3E8

Although a fabulous quote/Schrutism, it’s not overly helpful as a reference point seeing that:

a) I had to look up ‘mongoose’ (which I’ve since learned is a small feliform carnivore)

b) I’ve yet to see a snake vs. mongoose 100m dash, as a stats fan, I need benchmarks to put it in perspective!

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I’m reluctant to give such potentially unhelpful reference points when discussing artists.

However, in order to provide some listening context for Anita Baker, I’ll roll the dice and attempt to modify the Schrute quote anyways.

Here goes.

Anita Baker is very good. To give you a reference point, she’s somewhere between Sade and Whitney Houston.

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In this case, Rapture, conveniently, fits chronologically between Sade’s Diamond Life (1985) and Whitney’s Whitney (1987).anita_baker_-_rapture

With regards to album production/song selection/performer talent, I’m sure compelling arguments of superiority could be made for any/all of the three artists & albums.

But in terms of overall enjoyment, I’d put Rapture in the middle as well.

So perhaps instead of a lengthier essay, hopefully the above photo provides the optimal summary: I like Diamond Life, I really like Rapture, and I’ll always love Whitney.

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Verbalize The Positive

I appreciate that Deke @ superdekes.wordpress.com, The King of Yammering/self-described Musical One-Trick Pony/fluent in ThunderBay-ese, always stops by to read & compliment my posts.

Especially when the artists covered (like this post) aren’t playing anything resembling his beloved rawk, he still participates actively, cheers Deke!

The Byrds – Younger than Yesterday (1967)

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Unbelievable USA logo by Sarca @ caughtmegaming

USA Artists (so far): Aimee Mann, Marty Robbins, D’Angelo, The Modern Lovers, Bruce Springsteen, Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott, Steely Dan, Grant Lee Buffalo, 2Pac, Harry Nilsson, Linkin Park, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Randy Newman, The Monkees, Liz Phair, The Byrds

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[Album 496/1001]

“I’m not young enough to know everything.”
– J.M. Barrie, The Admirable Crichton, Act I (1903)

This is both my conundrum & my improbable solution to appreciating The Byrds: I simply need to get younger.

Because if I were younger, I’d surely know why I don’t quite flock to these Byrds as I feel I should.

On paper, it’s a group I should really dig (look at me using hip, youthfully exuberant terms like ‘dig’) but with Sweetheart of the Rodeo, Mr. Tambourine Man, and now Younger than Yesterday, I’ve been left feeling somewhat unfulfilled each time.

Which is a strange thing to say about three records that I’d consider to be ‘good’ records overall.

I’ve started to think it’s a case of a band performing below my (potentially unreasonable) expectations.

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“Is it any good?”
“It’s not all I hoped for”

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The Provincial Standard

In Ontario Secondary Schools, a mark in the 70s is known as “The Provincial Standard.” Essentially, a student achieves The Provincial Standard when they complete the checklist. They do all the requirements, they do a good job, but without any ‘wow’ factor.

If a student has tremendous work ethic, asks questions, tries their hardest, and earns The Provincial Standard, awesome!

But when a student has demonstrated they can do much more & achieves the same Provincial Standard, it’s somewhat…less awesome.

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So how does this apply to The Byrds?

Younger Than Yesterday feels like a Provincial Standard record.

Which would be fine, if they hadn’t recorded a song as exceptional as My Back Pages.

Unfortunately for The Byrds (and I suppose, more so, for me), the near perfection of My Back Pages sent my expectations through the roof.

As a consequence, I have never been more impressed with a single track & subsequently more disappointed when the rest of a ‘good’ album failed to reach such 220px-youngeryesterdaycovergreat heights.

It’s possible The Byrds are giving their all each time and I’m simply overestimating their abilities.

It’s possible I’m just getting old.

I don’t know.

That’s likely the biggest lesson of teaching: the more you know, the more you realize you have left to learn.

So maybe they’ll consistently go above & beyond the Provincial Standard on one of the remaining Byrds records on the 1001 (Fifth Dimension, The Notorious Byrd Brothers).

Either that, or hopefully I’ll be young enough by then to be able to fully appreciate them!

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Verbalize the Positive

I appreciate that Ovidiu @ Tangledupinmusic takes the time each month to give a tip of the hat to a variety of blogs that he’s enjoyed reading.

I also like the variety of series that he has on-the-go (like ‘Play This More Often’ & ‘Stories Behind Classic Songs’), with writing that always goes miles beyond the Provincial Standard!

Liz Phair – Exile in Guyville (1993)

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Unbelievable USA logo by Sarca @ caughtmegaming

USA Artists (so far): Aimee Mann, Marty Robbins, D’Angelo, The Modern Lovers, Bruce Springsteen, Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott, Steely Dan, Grant Lee Buffalo, 2Pac, Harry Nilsson, Linkin Park, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Randy Newman, The Monkees, Liz Phair

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[Album 495/1001]

“That woman made brazen overtures
With a gilt-edged guarantee
She had a golden glint in her eye
And a silver voice”
Pick a Little, Talk a Little (from The Music Man)

If the The Music Man’s citizens of River City, Iowa were concerned about the conduct of the new librarian in town, I’m curious as to how they’d possibly process the arrival of Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville.

I picture Liz rolling into town on the eagerly anticipated Wells Fargo Wagon, belting out the lyrics to Flower in her silver voice, eyes glinting-all-golden-like: my goodness, those poor fictitious Iowans would be overwhelmed by the brazenness!

On Exile in Guyville, there are 18 tracks (I’ve since read, as a not so accidental tip-of-the-hat to Exile on Main Street) but a single track acts nicely as a microcosm of the record.

That track, excuse my French as they say, is (Word for Seal in French) and Run.

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Critics might argue it’s intentionally provocative, she sounds bored, it’s too lo-fi.

And they may be right, I may be crazy – but Liz just may be exactly the kind 220px-liz_phair_-_exile_in_guyvilleof provocative-yet-bored-&-lo-fi sounding girl I’m looking for!

What I’d suggest: check out the track above.

If you don’t approve, the rest of Exile will do little for you.

If the song earns your approval, by all means, check out the remaining 17 tracks, you’ll be glad you did.

Though the lyrics may not seem so brazen in 2016, as there’s likely some desensitizing at play, I’ll make a “gilt-edged guarantee” nonetheless: Exile is well worth keeping & is certainly not an album I plan on banishing from the listening rotation any time soon.

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Verbalize the Positive

I appreciate that Theme Song Steve @ songsonatheme.com referenced The Music Man in a couple of posts last year, it reminded me of how much I enjoy that musical.

As an unapologetic fan of theme posts & theme series, when I learned Steve had an entire site dedicated to celebrating themes? I’m in!