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Old 11-21-2011, 01:07 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default 100 Albums I Heartily Endorse

I've seen so many of these threads, and have wanted desperately to make one of my own. Theatre, though, got in the way, and then I had to deal with wedding stuff for my sister's wedding, so I had to wait.

Now, though, I am finally able to say that I have sufficient free time to dedicate to a thread of this nature. Huzzah!

These really aren't in order. I was going to try to order them, ultimately giving up when I realized how many glaring omissions were in the list to begin with. Instead, I chose to just recommend 100 stellar albums.

There are multiple genres represented here, as I don't really have a set genre of preference, and each artist is represented only once - although a given artist may appear on more than one recording under a different name.

So, without further ado, my list of 100 Albums I Heartily Endorse will begin here. Fasten your seatbelts.

100.) Alexander 'Skip' Spence - Oar
99.) Dick Gaughan - Handful of Earth
98.) Mazzy Star - So Tonight That I Might See
97.) Boards of Canada - Music Has the Right To Children
96.) Johnny Smith - Moonlight In Vermont
95.) Serafina Steer - Change Is Good, Change Is Good
94.) cLOUDDEAD - Ten
93.) Bedhead - WhatFunLifeWas
92.) Donald Byrd - Blackbyrd
91.) Gonjasufi - A Sufi and a Killer
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Old 11-21-2011, 01:07 PM   #2 (permalink)
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100.
Alexander 'Skip' Spence
Oar
(1969)




Track Listing
1.) Little Hands
2.) Cripple Creek
3.) Diana
4.) Margaret-Tiger Rug
5.) Weighted Down (The Prison Song)
6.) War In Peace
7.) Broken Heart
8.) All Come To Meet Her
9.) Book of Moses
10.) Dixie Peach Promenade
11.) Lawrence of Euphoria
12.) Grey/Afro
13.) The Time He Has Come
14.) It's the Best Thing For You
15.) Keep Everything Under Your Hat
16.) Furry Heroine
17.) Givin' Up Things
18.) If I'm Good
19.) You Know
20.) Doodle
21.) You Know
22.) Fountain


Psychedelia, folk, and experimentation are definite themes on Oar, the only solo album release by former Jefferson Airplane and Moby Grape musician Alexander 'Skip' Spence, and the combination of the three sounds has the potential to be typical and utterly unremarkable and fail. It was, in fact, at the time of release the lowest selling album ever released by Columbia Records. While these themes are certainly the frame work of the album, however, the listener is treated to a great deal more than the typical, verging on extraordinary in points.

The best way I can think of to describe Spence's fragmented and bizarre effort is this: Oar is an aural exploration of psychosis, teetering on the brink of madness and peppered with delusions, fear, and melancholy. It's very human and sincere, yet clouded with schizophrenic tangents which can make it unrelatable if you don't allow your mind to open to its bizarre brand of charm. If listened to with an open mind, it can intrigue, excite, and truly resonate; it only gives as much as you're willing to take.

Do yourself a favor and take as much as you can. The experience will be overwhelmingly rewarding.

The version I have chosen to include is the re-release, full of over twenty minutes of extra recordings from the master tapes, recorded by Spence over a week-long period. On this recording, Spence is the sole composer, vocalist, and instrumentalist, making this an even more interesting exploration of his mind-state at the time of recording.

Interesting and worth note when listening to the album are the events which led up to its recording. Spence, after having ingested LSD, attempted to attack Moby Grape bandmates with a fire axe, and was committed to a psychiatric institution. He stayed there for a period of six months, during which time he wrote the songs which appear on the recording, and upon his release was eager to record the tracks.

Such tracks as "Margaret-Tiger Rug" and "Weighted Down (The Prison Song)" seem easily to reference Spence's time at the psychiatric facility. In the former, Spence sings, "It appears I sent you off to treatment / With the tiger by the tail / If he could be free / He wouldn't have stripes on him, like jail."

Other tracks on the offering, such as "Broken Heart" appear as more typical songs, enjoyable as such. The pleasant light psychedelia of the opening track, "Little Hands," is also enjoyable as a stand alone track without knowledge of the album's background. The folky goodness of such offerings as "Cripple Creek" also fit into the album beautifully, adding variation and interest to an offering which can tend to fall into repetitive, muddled psychedelia with little regard for accessibility.

At worst, this album is disjointed, fragmented, and rambling. At best, it is a diverse offering from one of the most talented musicians in American psychedelia, and a true window into his mind. While not for everyone, I'm in the camp who feel it falls closer to brilliance than inane self-indulgence. Give it a listen or two, open your mind, open your ears, and experience the album for yourself. What have you got to lose?


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Old 11-21-2011, 01:07 PM   #3 (permalink)
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99.
Dick Gaughan
Handful of Earth
(1981)




Track Listing
1.) Erin-Go-Bragh
2.) Now Westlin Winds
3.) Craigie Hill
4.) The World Turned Upside Down
5.) The Snows They Melt the Soonest
6.) Lough Erne / First Kiss At Parting
7.) Scojun Waltz / Randers Hopsa
8.) Song For Ireland
9.) Workers' Song
10.) Both Sides the Tweed


What can be said about this highly underappreciated folk gem from Dick Gaughan that fully sums up the sheer mastery of the recording? It is lyrically, vocally, and instrumentally breath-taking, a true slice of folk music that can bring a smile to the face of even the most casual of listeners. I do not feel that I'd be laying it on a bit thick at all to say that it's a true masterpiece of the genre, and an album which should have a place in anyone's record collection. In short, it comes highly recommended from me, with two very enthusiastic thumbs up.

The Scottish Gaughan, who would later earn quite a bit of flack for his overtly socialist subject matter on subsequent recordings, was at the top of his game here - political at points but mainly traditional, making for a very special record indeed. Each song is approached with complete passion, heart, and dedication and it shines through with remarkable efficacy.

Stand-out tracks include the gorgeously heart-wrenching "Craigie Hill", a track on which Gaughan's vocals are at their powerful peak, "The Snows They Melt the Soonest", and "Worker's Song", although there doesn't appear to be a weak link on the album.

Some wonderful instrumental work, rough yet tuneful and emotive vocals, and superb subject matter really propel this album to the top of the heap. Definitely worth a listen or ten.


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Old 11-21-2011, 01:08 PM   #4 (permalink)
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98.
Mazzy Star
So Tonight That I Might See
(1993)




Track Listing
1.) Fade Into You
2.) Bells Ring
3.) Mary Of Silence
4.) Five String Serenade
5.) Blue Light
6.) She's My Baby
7.) Unreflected
8.) Wasted
9.) Into Dust
10.) So Tonight That I Might See


Listening to this album is like having the most wonderful dream. You're floating in fields of violet, grasping for feather-soft clouds, smiling from ear to ear, and living in this perfect moment that just goes on and on. It's truly one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard.

The songs stroll along at a dreamy pace, the blissful instrumentation doing just as much to bring along the gorgeous vibe as the ethereal vocals. Even when the instruments become darker, the vibe is still surreal, soft, soothing. It could easily put you into a trance, but only of the most lulling variety. Nothing about the sound is anything other than pleasing to the ears, and that's alays a pleasant reward at the end of a day which was anything but.

This is the perfect album to daydream to, the perfect album to relax to, the perfect album to really calm your nerves. I've been wont to put this album on whilst smoking hookah, blowing smoke rings and watching them fluidly dissipate. Yes. It's that kind of album.

The band are at their peaceful best on the opener "Fade Into You", "Five String Serenade", and "Into Dust", while songs like "Mary of Silence", "She's My Baby", and "Wasted" go a little darker without compromising the band's bizarrely demulcent overall feel.

"Blue Light" is another stand-out track, featuring twangy guitar which would not be out of place in a country song, but the sound is still very firmly tied into the overall dreamscape motif established by the band.

Also well-worth mention is the title track, over seven minutes of wondrous instrumentation, some spoken-word delivery to accompany the beautiful singing, and very interesting and pleasing sounds.

I know that most people are probably already familiar with this album, many probably already love it, but it's one that I can't, in good conscience, not recommend. If you've not heard it, do yourself a favor and check it out. If you have, do yourself a favor and give it another listen. It's that good.


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Old 11-21-2011, 01:08 PM   #5 (permalink)
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97.
Boards of Canada
Music Has the Right To Children
(1998)




Track Listing
1.) Wildlife Analysis
2.) An Eagle In Your Mind
3.) The Color Of the Fire
4.) Telephasic Workshop
5.) Triangles & Rhombuses
6.) Sixtyten
7.) Turquoise Hexagon Sun
8.) Kaini Industries
9.) Bocuma
10.) Roygbiv
11.) Rue the Whirl
12.) Aquarius
13.) Olson
14.) Pete Standing Alone
15.) Smokes Quantity
16.) Open the Light
17.) One Very Important Thought
18.) Happy Cycling


The album begins more on the minimal and repetitive side, but not in a bad way at all. As it progresses, it builds into something wonderful, eerie, strange, and magnificent. It's difficult to describe without just playing it for others; I have a feeling it means something entirely different to every single person who listens to the recording, but in a completely different way than many other albums. It's just...you have to listen to it.

I'm a big Boards of Canada fan in general, and have ultimately decided that this one, the duo's debut album, is my absolute favorite. Geogaddi is likewise brilliant, but it just doesn't compete with the way this one makes me feel. That's the best part about this album, to me anyway - the wide range of emotions it brings, the interesting head space it takes you into, and all of that good stuff. The production and whatnot is excellent, but that's not at all the main reason I love it. This album is just wonderful.

Standout tracks for me include "Telephasic Workshop", "Sixtyten", "Roygbiv", and "Aquarius", although I could make a case for pretty much all of the tracks, including the fantastic, shorter, intermediate ones. I find this recording to be, as a whole, overwhelmingly solid.

To me, this album has always felt like looking into a mirror and seeing your greatest fear, being pulled inside, and not being afraid. Again, it's kind of hard to articulate, but that's the best way I can put it. FYI, my biggest fear is being trapped underwater. This album, for me, is like being trapped underwater, but being able to breathe.

If you have any interest in electronic music and haven't heard this album, or just think it might be up your alley, definitely check it out. It's a journey well worth taking.

P.S.: Orange.


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Old 11-21-2011, 01:09 PM   #6 (permalink)
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96.
Johnny Smith
Moonlight In Vermont
(1956)




Track Listing
1.) Where Or When
2.) Tabu
3.) Moonlight In Vermont
4.) Jaguar
5.) Stars Fell On Alabama
6.) Tenderly
7.) (I Don't Stand a) Ghost of a Chance
8.) Vilja
9.) Cavu
10.) I'll Be Around
11.) Yesterdays
12.) Cherokee
13.) Sometimes I'm Happy
14.) Nice Work If You Can Get It
15.) Jaguar (Alternate Version)
16.) My Funny Valentine


Jazz standards played on guitar have never sounded so nice. Johnny Smith, a true master of the instrument, showcases his prowess on Moonlight In Vermont my favorite of his recordings, and does not disappoint at all.

I am huge into free form jazz, and if that's the only type of jazz you enjoy, you may actually want to steer clear of this album; that's not what you're going to get. What you are going to get, however, is pure, smooth, mellow jazz, played beautifully and soulfully by Smith and Co. Oh, and before I forget - the wonderful Stan Getz is also featured on this brilliant classic! Wow!

Standout tracks on this pleasant little album include the Smith-penned "Jaguar" (including an alternate take), "Yesterdays", "Nice Work If You Can Get It", and, of course, the title track. Anyone with an appreciation for jazz will find this to be a very nice album to put on and listen to, even if there's really nothing that really takes off and goes above and beyond. It's very honest, sweet, and sincere playing by some truly fantastic musicians.

As this album is so well-known to many, and the tracks and melodies will for the most part prove quite familiar to the average listener, there's not much more I can say about it. I can say that it's definitely a positive listening experience, and you're not going to regret time spent listening to this album. Technically flawless, not a note out of place, and beautifully presented. One of those rare albums that wows without being even remotely flashy. Check it out.


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Old 11-21-2011, 01:09 PM   #7 (permalink)
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95.
Serafina Steer
Change Is Good, Change Is Good
(2010)




Track Listing
1.) Shut Up Shop
2.) Day Glo
3.) GSOH
4.) The Valley
5.) Motion Pictures
6.) Drinking While Driving
7.) How To Haunt a House Party
8.) Margoton
9.) Port Isaac
10.) The Sisters Of Proportion
11.) Half Robot
12.) Ulular


The way I discovered Serafina Steer's music is EASILY the weirdest way I've ever been introduced to the existence of an artist I'd never heard of.

I was in Washington DC at a Ben Folds concert in 2008, walking around by myself with the beer my over-21 girlfriend had purchased for me, when a drunk girl saw me, screamed, "OH MY GOD!" and grabbed me. Needless to say, I was taken aback and very confused. She kept saying, "You're Serafina!" which was news to me, as that's not my name, nor has it ever been. I kept telling her I wasn't, but she thought I was messing with her and just didn't want to be recognized. She asked me if I had my harp with me, and finally, I was just like, "No, I don't like to travel with it," and she wanted an autograph so I just scribbled the letter 'S' and some squiggles on a piece of paper for her. She walked away happy; I was just very confused and oddly flattered.

When I got home, I had to figure out who the fuck this Serafina lady was. Turns out, I don't think I even look all that much like her, nor am I English (which should have been a dead giveaway, I feel) but she does have pretty awesome music. This album is her most recent full length release, and it's very pretty and enjoyable. I dig the harp in more "indie-friendly" music dynamic she has going, and I think she has a lovely voice.

Others may disagree greatly with me, but I'd put her sound kind of close to an Ingrid Michaelson-esque vibe, with notes of Regina Spektor in the vocal delivery. Her music is a nice brand of indie pop that is very listenable, very delicate and sad in places, and something I really, really enjoy.

I find myself sincerely hoping this lady's career takes off; she's pretty damn good.

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Old 11-21-2011, 01:14 PM   #8 (permalink)
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YES!

I haven't seen ANYONE here mention Alexander "Skip" Spence at all -- Oar is simply genius. What's especially wonderful to me is he was able to create such an organically lush soundscape with so little technical expertise exerted on ANYTHING. The percussion, the guitar, the vocals all come together so discordantly that it becomes a difficult listen at first, but it pays in dividends once you "get it."

Boards of Canada are paramount as well, I can't decide whether I like Music Has the Right to Children or Geogaddi better. Will be looking into all these other artists here at some point or another.
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Old 11-21-2011, 01:29 PM   #9 (permalink)
 
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Yay for Mazzy Star! 'Fade Into You' is one of my all-time favourite songs and the whole album is really amazing as well, although I prefer Among My Swan

Some nice reviews, going to keep an eye on this.
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Old 11-21-2011, 02:39 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I'm new to Jazz. If you could pm me about all the best jazz artists/bands and albums I'd appreciate it.
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