Jun 052015
 

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

bobmarley

His voice was an omnipresent cry in our electronic world. His sharp features, majestic looks, and prancing style a vivid etching on the landscape of our minds. Bob Marley was never seen. He was an experience which left an indelible imprint with each encounter. Such a man cannot be erased from the mind. He is part of the collective consciousness of the nation. – Jamaican Prime Minister Edward Seaga, in his eulogy to Bob Marley

Maybe it’s a cheat to include a greatest hits album in the Full Album Covers category, but when the suggestion of Legend was put forward, I was intrigued. Only as I started searching did I perhaps discover why this best-of was the album suggested, instead of Catch a Fire, say, or Natty Dread. One of Bob Marley’s “normal” studio, or even live, albums might have been, well, a much duller choice, actually. If not dull, then uninnovative and samey, because anyone can do karaoke, and by golly, there are a lot of copycat Marley covers out there! By focusing on Legend, at least there is  opportunity to steer a little clearer of identikit versions.
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May 152015
 

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

Maybe it is too facile to say that Van Morrison’s second solo album, Astral Weeks, is respected, while its follow up, Moondance, is loved. We looked at Astral Weeks about a year ago, so there’s no reason to repeat that here, but it’s clear that Morrison took a very different approach with the two albums, both of which have entered the rock pantheon as classics (for example, both albums were inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame and Astral Weeks is 19 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of all time; Moondance was ranked 66.) But while the older album is revered as a work of art, you actually heard (and still hear) songs from Moondance on the radio. Astral Weeks failed to chart, and no singles from the album were released, but Moondance reached 29 on the Billboard Pop Album chart, and had three singles released.

Astral Weeks is considered to be a unified song cycle or a concept album, filled with stream of consciousness lyrics. The musicians that were recruited mostly had jazz backgrounds, and Morrison encouraged them to improvise after hearing Morrison play the songs on an acoustic guitar. Despite critical acclaim, it received little commercial airplay and limited support from the label, Warner Bros.

After recording Astral Weeks, Morrison and his wife moved into a mountaintop house near Woodstock, in upstate New York. He began to write the songs for Moondance and recruited local musicians for the recording sessions. Although, like with his previous album, there were no formal written charts, Morrison focused this time on shorter, more upbeat and optimistic songs with accessible song structures, in part influenced by another group of Woodstock area residents, The Band. It also was greeted with great reviews, but garnered significantly more radio airplay and immediate sales than its predecessor. And, I would argue, few albums have a stronger first side (when that mattered) than Moondance (“And It Stoned Me”/”Moondance”/”Crazy Love”/”Caravan”/”Into The Mystic”), and side 2 isn’t shabby, either.
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Feb 272015
 

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

Writing about Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot seems a little like eating at a buffet right before closing. There may be a few good things left, but it is pretty well picked over, and what’s left has lost its flavor. Few rock albums of the past 20 years have been discussed and analyzed as much as YHF. Yet we proceed, undaunted, because what we do is different. And maybe, just maybe, listening to a full set of covers of each song of this great album will allow you to hear it anew. Because you never know when the buffet is going to get restocked with something fresh.
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Feb 202015
 

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

Tusk‘s reputation as an infamous failure is pretty much cemented at this point. But it didn’t actually fail at all.
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Feb 062015
 

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

At this point, is there anything about Pink Moon that isn’t legendary? Age of artist: 23. Recorded in two nights. Voice and acoustic guitar, plus one small splash of piano. Not even a half hour long. Dropped off at the label’s office with barely a word. Sank like a proverbial stone upon release. Two years later, it was the artist’s turn. Then the pilgrimages to his home began, from listeners all over the world who’d connected with his songs. And then, two decades later, a show of hands in an ad agency office. All in favor of using the Church’s “Under the Milky Way” to score this car commercial? All in favor of Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon”? In the end, Nick Drake won (read more about the making of VW’s Cabrio ad from adman Shane Hutton in the comment section here), and in the very end, his work finally introduced to millions, he won again.
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Sep 262014
 

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

Loaded, released forty-four years ago this week, was the album that marked the end of the Velvet Underground as we knew them – or, more accurately, as we never knew them until after they broke up, when those few thousand who bought the first record formed their own bands and named them as an influence. Trying to make the slickest, most commercial album they could, they still failed to crack Billboard‘s Top 200, but they scored some of the best reviews of their career; Rolling Stone‘s Lenny Kaye wrote, “Each cut on the album, regardless of its other merits, is first and foremost a celebration of the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll, all pounded home as straight and true as an arrow.”
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Aug 292014
 

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

Are the Decemberists a band that “craft theatrical, hyper-literate pop songs that draw heavily from late-’60s British folk acts like Fairport Convention and Pentangle and the early-’80s college rock grandeur of the Waterboys and R.E.M.,” as described by Allmusic, or are their songs an “unbearable exercise in indie high-quirkiness, with each new release deepening the impression that Meloy thinks he’s Edmund Spenser or, at least, the only rock singer smart enough to keep a copy of The Faerie Queene on his bedside plinth,” as writer Jody Rosen wrote in Slate?

Although I lean toward the former, I can understand believing the latter.

There can be no doubt that the Decemberists’ focus on tales of pirates, highwaymen, shape-shifters, and interpretations of myths and legends from around the world, plus primary lyricist Colin Meloy’s empty-the-thesaurus writing style, not to mention their practice of performing live historical reenactments in their shows, set them up for being mocked by some, and beloved by others. And that is what makes life interesting.
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Jun 202014
 

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

Astral Weeks, insofar as it can be pinned down, is a record about people stunned by life, completely overwhelmed, stalled in their skins, their ages and selves, paralyzed by the enormity of what in one moment of vision they can comprehend. — Lester Bangs, 1979

I was so shocked when I was teaching a seminar at Princeton just a couple years ago, and out of 16 students, four of them said their favorite album was Astral Weeks. Now, how did it enter their lives? We’re talking about an album that was recorded well before they were born, and yet it spoke to them. They understood its language as soon as they heard it. — Greil Marcus, 2009

To paraphrase the singer of “Sweet Thing,” Astral Weeks is dynamite and we don’t know why. The album Van Morrison created in his early twenties has detonated in more psyches than thousands of better known works, but when its biggest fans try to explain its greatness, more often than not, their tongues get tied every time they try to speak.
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