Our Journey to # 1 continues...
31. Copperhead Road - Steve Earle
For better or worse, I’ve spent nearly all of my life listening to, selling, talking and writing about music. I wouldn’t have it any other way. When Earle finally arrived on the scene with his debut “Guitar Town” I would have sworn he would never top it or come close again. I felt I’d found my “new country” album. Then one day a few years later this one arrived in the mail and it was apparent everything I knew was wrong. With this 1988 album Earle turned it up a notch and turned his back on anything going on in Nashville then or now.
The title track alone blows away any number of complete albums that I’ve heard. Re-recording “The Devil’s Right Hand” was one of the best ideas he’s ever had. Using the Pogues on “Johnny Come Lately” took that song to places it would have never found. “Nothing Like A Child” came out of nowhere but found a home on any mix-tape or disc of Christmas music I’ve ever assembled. His songwriting didn’t peak on this album, but it served notice that he could write in several genres and make you think he was the one to beat.
On “Guitar Town” he was a slightly unwashed singer songwriter trying to catch a wave in the country field. On this one he was a full blown tattooed biker with white trash roots that he not only embraced, but championed.
32. The Last Puff - Spooky Tooth
By the time of this 1970 album the original band was long gone and it was pretty much down to Mike Harrison and members of Joe Cocker’s Grease Band making up the group. While never achieving the commercial recognition of the likes of Jagger, Plant or Burdon, Harrison was easily one of the best of the sixties British blues-rock vocalists. As a band they were “also rans” to the masses, but to their loyal fans they were one of the best of the late sixties British bands. Put me down for the latter.
Relying on mostly covers, the band turned in one of their best efforts even if it wasn’t the band we had come to know. Opening with what has to be one of the most daring Beatles covers ever with their take on “I Am The Walrus” this album serves notice that they weren’t going to go quietly. They take the all but novelty tune and turn it into a galvanizing dirge that plays more like a time shifting nightmare than a sing-a-long. When I first heard this cover I thought it was cool, at this point in time it borders on genius.
Along the way they also cover Joe Cocker, David Ackles and Elton John. For the Elton cover they choose “Son Of Your Father” and while not straying from the original manage to grab some of it for their own. Then to bring it full circle, piano man Chris Stainton closes it out with a melancholy instrumental that gave the album its title. You could almost title this one “No Two Alike” and be spot on with the designation. Unlike a lot of albums from 1970 this one sounds almost contemporary. Strange, but true.
33. Laid Back - Gregg Allman
I used to work at a record store that was open on Sunday’s. The first couple of years I would open with the same person week in and week out. With no real dialog we would always stick the 8-track tape of this album in the player week in and week out. It just seemed the thing to do. All these years later it still gets a Sunday off to a proper start.
Everybody has their own blue eyed soul album to tout so I guess this is mine. From the song selection to the “laid back” performances this one is easy on the ears and shows Allman in a comfortable groove. He would never get within a mile of a Southbound freight train of matching this one in his solo career again. That’s fine, it doesn’t diminish the impact of this one a bit.
34. Soundtrack - The Harder They Come
Before soundtracks became nothing more than label samplers and boomer versions of a K-Tel compilation they were a valuable asset to a film. I would guess that soundtracks were fairly reliable up until “The Big Chill.” After that they became little more than a land grab for publishers and another tool for labels to get you to pay full price for one new song by a hot artist. Strange when you think of the rich history of soundtrack music and all of the cases where they were essentially another character in the film. “Psycho,” “The Godfather,” “Ryan’s Daughter,” “Once Upon A time In The West,” “Dr. Zhivago” and countless others come to mind.
This one introduced the world to joys of reggae music like nothing before it or since really. It’s been updated and expanded a couple of times and now serves as the “go to” reggae disc for those who want to dip their toes in the water. Jimmy Cliff in addition to being the star of the movie is also the star of the album. Every selection is solid and their placement in the film borders on perfection. The footage of Toots and the Maytals in the studio recording “Sweet And Dandy” should be required viewing. Poke around and you’ll find it on YouTube. I would never, ever say that you should only own one reggae disc. It’s some of the finest music on this planet, but if you want to get started on the right foot this is the place to hop on board.
35. Alone Together - Dave Mason
Straying into George Harrison territory here Mason was also a frustrated second banana in a popular British group. If anyone ever had any doubts as to what he was capable of they found out pretty quick with this multi-colored piece of vinyl. This is one of those albums that has only high points, there’s nothing to program around here. Mason revealed himself as a the consummate team player and assembled an all star group to back him. He would never come close to putting a complete record together again. But, so what, great albums aren’t a dime a dozen. It’s better to have one great one in a long career than a lot of average ones as far as I’m concerned.