Aug 122016
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

After The Gold Rush

Surely After the Gold Rush, this “uniformly dull” record, as Rolling Stone magazine put it at the time, is the peak of Neil Young’s output?

Yet somehow I always seem to forget it, tending to immediately opt for the feistier, zeitgeistier options of Zuma and Ragged Glory, and the civilians always go for the milquier toast of Harvest. But nowhere is there such simple beauty as on this 1970 record, his third solo album after leaving Buffalo Springfield. It captures most of Shakey’s tropes on one disc – his ragged guitar, his playing always suggesting playing in mittens if not boxing gloves, his delicate acoustic whimsy, and the left-field oddness, exemplified here by “Cripple Creek Ferry.” True, volume and feedback are restrained, maybe 8/10 rather than his later 11 (at least), and it’s possible that the record is even the better for that.

So when I do remember After the Gold Rush, when I come back to it, it astonishes. I can play it side to side (yes, of course vinyl) and be instantly transported to a teenage me, dreaming of a future I couldn’t ever quite picture (and indeed haven’t quite yet), all hopes and fears, intermingled with tears and joy.
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Aug 052016
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

beatles-revolver

Fifty years ago today, the Beatles’ best album was released. It can be argued that Sgt. Pepper is their greatest album, and Abbey Road could be considered their most accomplished, but all things considered, nothing is better than Revolver.

Revolver saw three of the Beatles on hot songwriting streaks: John exploring his LSD-infused mind; Paul excelling at each genre he tried; George growing by leaps and bounds. Ringo’s contributions were nothing to sneeze at, either, with his work on “She Said She Said” frequently singled out as some of his best drumming. Let’s not forget producer George Martin and teenaged engineer Geoff Emerick, turning the studio into a laboratory to experiment in.

Combine all these talents at their most creative, innovative, and adventurous, and it’s no wonder Revolver left the rock and roll world frantic with wonder at how they could catch up to this landmark. Half a century later, they’re still wondering.
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Jul 012016
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

imagine

John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, Lennon’s first solo album, got many rave reviews and deserved them all, but there are people who aren’t comfortable witnessing someone baring his soul, and Lennon wanted to reach them too. So he made sure his next album, Imagine, sweetened his message, even as he kept it intact. “Plastic Ono with chocolate coating,” he later called it. By lightening his touch and assuring the songs landed in his fans’ hearts rather than crashing into them, Lennon was rewarded with a commercial success, not to mention the title track that came to be his signature song.
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Jun 172016
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

BobDylanStreetLegal

When it was first released in 1978, Bob Dylan’s Street Legal got a bum rap. One culprit was the sound. Dylan always preferred recording with the whole band playing at once, and whereas with the right producer a wonderful spontaneity could emerge (think “Like a Rolling Stone”), here it just created a muddy mess. Reviews were scathing. Robert Christgau called it “horrendous” and Jon Pareles noted that “Dylan still needs a producer.” Even Rolling Stone – Dylan champions since way back – labeled it “dead air, or close to it.”

A remaster in the CD era has since redeemed it somewhat and helped push it its proper place in the Dylan pantheon. In the wake of albums like Empire Burlesque – really, all of the ’80s – the big band sound is no longer shocking, and not even bad. It’s no Blonde on Blonde, but a solid B-level effort with a number of gems. “Señor” and “Changing of the Guards” stand among his best songs of the ’70s (though they really fit in better with the late-’70s/early-’80s period than they do with the decade that led up to them). “New Pony” is a fun big-band blues jam, and “Where Are You Tonight” features a wonderfully emotive vocal. Continue reading »

Apr 082016
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

Bowie

I felt I had to let some time pass and perspective broaden before posting this. The temptation had been to rush it out whilst reactions were still raw, the media awash with memories of an icon, but I stalled, maybe waiting for his death to all have been a big mistake, a stunt even. But it wasn’t, nor were the steady stream of deaths that have followed in his wake, 2016 seeming an end of the line for so many of my musical heroes.

I was a mere decade behind Bowie in age; he had been a constant in my life from ’69 and he still is, not necessarily at the forefront but always capable of wrenching away the limelight from whichsoever johnny-come-latelys were making my day. Not an uber fan; indeed, swathes of his prodigious output meant nothing to me at the time, only catching up well late in the game – I didn’t “get” the Berlin Trilogy until five years after the fact, and Diamond Dogs/Young Americans took four times longer. (Never did get Tin Machine, but hey, who did?) But even as recently as last summer, a driving holiday in Cornwall was nourished by Bowie, a playlist culled from the 102 tracks of his on my iPod. Paltry by some standards, yes, but several hours of enjoyment by me. With much in-car singing.

I remember the time when suddenly everybody first got Bowie, the days of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, early ’70s, but my dalliance had begun earlier. I recall hearing “Changes,” or should I say, “Ch-ch-ch-changes,” on the radio at home, sounding all awkwardness and angst, immediately marking my card. Inevitably when Ziggy came along, all those of my age and place on the autism spectrum disorder “preferred” Hunky Dory. And I did too, swiftly selling my copy of Ziggy as it was “too commercial.” Hey, give me a break – I was 15, and today, aeons later, I regret that. But I still prefer Hunky Dory, even the dodgy tracks everyone skips.
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Mar 112016
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

americanbeauty

In 1970, Wally Heider’s San Francisco recording studio was the percolating epicenter of the psychedelic rock universe. The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Neil Young, and Carlos Santana shared this transcendent studio space, which Phil Lesh classified as “jammer heaven.” This was where the Grateful Dead’s American Beauty was born.

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