Singer, songwriter, and musician Renee Maskin (lowlightnj.bandcamp.com) joins Bill and Brian to discuss Bob Dylan's country-tinged Nashville Skyline (1969, Columbia). After becoming a historical icon in the progressive folk movement of the 60s, Dylan broke huge after "going electric" and embracing rock and other popular music. Tired of the spotlight, Dylan took some time off after a motorcycle accident sidelined him a while. He took that opportunity to revamp his sound too, culminating in this classic that eschews his usual rambling lyrics and froggy voice in favor of simple melodies and a lilting vocal tone. Renee, Brian, and Bill discuss Dylan's arrangements, his role as a historical figure, the sound of contentment on this record, arranging in the studio, George Harrison's influence and vice versa, the cult of personality around Dylan and how he interacts with fans, how Dylan maintained his fame without radio hits, and (as always) a track by track review!
It's Bonus Song Thursday! Brian and Bill welcome back singer songwriter and musician Jeff Linden (jefflinden.bandcamp.com) to talk a little more about Queen and their collaboration with David Bowie, "Under Pressure." We talk about which Queen song we're sending to the aliens in outer space, legendary bass lines, "Ice Ice Baby" (briefly), the opening bass line to "Walk on the Wild Side," what the heck the song is about, and who came up with this bass line. Additionally, we have a little bit of a surprise at the beginning of the episode that you can listen to at soundcloud.com/thegreatalbums!
Singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Jeff Linden (jefflinden.bandcamp.com) of Rose Boulevard and his own solo work (backed by the Black Spot Society) joins Bill and Brian to discuss Queen's A Night at the Opera (1975, EMI/Parlophone/Elektra). Probably the definitive album in the band's career, it was a great leap forward both sonically and in composition. With all four members contributing songs, it was an eclectic mix of progressive, hard rock, folk, and vaudeville all anchored by the band's signature harmonies. Jeff talks about discovering Queen at a young age and later coming under their influence again after making his way through a period of listening to serious big songwriters rooted in cars and summer. Along the way, we also discuss how Queen evolved out of a band called Smile, Freddie Mercury's consistent voice, John Deacon's motivations for writing songs, gender roles and sexual identity in songwriting, what a canon is, theremin, Bohemian Rhapsody (of course), and what kind of show we think Roger Taylor and Brian May should be doing curating at Radio City Music Hall.
It's Bonus Song Thursday! Bill and Brian follow up our episode on the Strokes' Is This It by talking about "Juicebox," off the band's third album First Impressions of Earth (2006, RCA). Representative of the turning point in the band's sound, the song is muscular and driving, a stark contrast to their earlier work. Brian and Bill discuss David Kahne's production and career, how the Strokes and the Gaslight Anthem have had the same problem, the Strokes side projects, Brian's discovery of the band, and a tweet that (thankfully) corrected who the characters are in Jack Kerouac's On the Road.
From the Jabber and the Drone podcast (jabberandthedrone.podbean.com), Cassidy Robinson joins Bill and Brian to discuss the final installment of Debut Album January, the Strokes' Is This It (2001, RCA). Coming together in New York City and first gaining a following in the UK, the Strokes were a breath of fresh air during a period of nu metal, boy bands, and emo. We talk about when Cassidy first discovered the band, listening to them while riding the bus to school, and how it changed his outlook on the aural landscape available to him as a fan of music. Before we get to our track by track review, we discuss the lasting impact the band made even though they were unable to maintain the level of quality on their first few releases. Additionally, we cover the possible reasons for starting an album with a low key song, which song sounds the most like a Velvet Underground song, stabby guitars, the unique production style of Gordon Raphael, which song sounds like the best song Weezer didn't write, the "conversation" between musicians when a song is being arranged, and more!
It's Bonus Song Thursday! Brian and Bill welcome Patrick from the Almost Education and Make Dad Read Comics podcasts to continue talking about Warren Zevon. This time we eschew the long conversation about a whole album to talk a Zevon's biggest and most memorable song "Werewolves pf London" off of the album Excitable Boy (1978, Asylum). We discuss how to rationalize this song as part of Zevon's whole career, whether or not this is a novelty, Kid Rock sampling the song, what happens when you put two Lynyrd Skynyrd live CDs on shuffle, and when Zevon drifted away from the mellow mafia. We also read some listener emails and share their music, podcasts, and trivia about Dennis Wilson and SNL!
Patrick from the Almost Educational and Make Dad Read Comics podcasts joins Bill and Brian as we continue Debut Albums January to discuss Warren Zevon's self titled album (1976, Asylum). Often a misunderstood artist, the eclectic singer songwriter found success after falling in with like minded individuals in the mid-70s LA scene, including the producer for this album Jackson Browne. We talk about how Warren Zevon helped teenage Patrick expand his musical palette, why some people view him as kind of a hokey songwriter, and as always a track by track review. Along the way, we discuss Zevon's storytelling balladry, the reliability of oral histories, if Warren Zevon fits in with the mellow mafia, what brunch with Warren would be like, what podcasting in hell would be like (hint: Satan is an Eagles fan), what it takes to be the world's most successful jug player, and the secret to Brian's listening habits!
It's Bonus Song Thursday! Singer, songwriter, musician Jesse Elliot (jesseelliot.com) joins Brian and Bill once again to discuss Elvis Costello. We jump a couple albums into the artist's discography to discuss his single "Oliver's Army" from Armed Forces (1979, Radar/Columbia), the second album to feature backing band the Attractions. We discuss the polish and improved production on this album, Costello's move into New Wave, what the song's lyrics refer to, irony, the use of controversial lyrics, and when Costello recently addressed that topic.
Brian has recorded a special episode to honor the passing of David Bowie. In it, he explains how a simple soda ad brought the man into his life. It was during this time that Bowie's career was on the wane, coloring Brian's earliest memories toward the negative. But Brian speculates that--during Bowie's self-imposed hiatus--he was able to achieve icon status by staying out of his own way and instead becoming all things to all people.
Singer, songwriter, and musician Jesse Elliot (jesseelliot.com) joins Brian and Bill to discuss Elvis Costello's My Aim Is True (1977, Stiff/Columbia) as we continue to highlight debut albums in January's First Month of First Albums! Incorporating an innumerable score of influences, Declan Patrick McManus (aka Elvis Costello) burst out of the British pub rock scene with some spiky music and a brash attitude. We discuss how Jesse first came to know the music through a mix tape, inherited from his brother and played in his crappy old car, before trying to delineate between punk, post-punk, and new wave. Along the way, we talk about what genre each album track belongs in, Nick Lowe's contributions as a producer, whether Clover was up to the task of backing Costello or if the Attractions would have done a better job, what causes the clipping we hear in the recording, Irish folk music, if Less Than Zero is actually a subpar tune, which songs are totally about sex, and as always a track by track review! Additionally, it's the new year, and we've got a new segment where our guest plays an Elvis Costello tune for us!
It's Bonus Song Thursday! Bill and Brian follow up their episode on Big Star's seminal #1 Record by taking a listen to Those Pretty Wrongs' "Lucky Guy." A teaming of Big Star's Jody Stephens and LA-based singer songwriter Luther Russell, the song was released as a 7" single in June 2015. Brian and Bill use the context of Jody Stephens emergence as a songwriter within Big Star to talk about and frame the band's career over the intervening years that led up to this release. We talk about how the song's production is a little reminiscent of Stephens' former band, the great bass tones that come out of Ardent Studios, and how happy Brian is that Jody is stepping out on his own as a songwriter. Additionally, we read a very special email that had us floored and will lend a little insight to a few of the things we discussed on the #1 Record episode.
Brian and Bill ring in the new year and kick off the First Month of First Albums with one that has the number "one" in the title: Big Star's #1 Record (1972, Ardent/Stax). Having grown tired of "the biz" after he helped bring his teen rock group, the Box Tops, to the top of the charts with his smokey vocals, Alex Chilton wanted to make his own original music and found a kindred spirit in fellow Memphis native Chris Bell. Thanks to the close relationship Bell had with Ardent Studios founder John Fry, the band had a home in the studio and on their label, distributed by Stax Records. After solid promotion and stellar reviews across the board, the album somehow only found its way onto a small number of record store shelves, relegating it to cult status for many years. Brian and Bill talk about how the album found its way out of that hole and into a place in our hearts. Along the way we discuss why we we weren't immediately blown away by the album, how the music influenced what we all got used to hearing from our favorite bands over the years, the secret weapon that is Andy Hummel, Chris Bell's guitar solos and expert production, That 70s Show, Chilton's smooth delivery vs. Bell's broken tones, if the Bell-less albums stack up against this one, and as always a track by track review!
It's Bonus Song Christmas! Wait, what? Didn't we say that the last Bonus Song Thursday was the last episode of the year? Well, it turns out Bill and Brian don't understand how calendars work and we didn't get our releases and recording days lined up so that we could talk about our listeners' suggestions for cool (and terrible) Christmas songs. So Bill took a little bit of time out of his Christmas Eve celebrations (which mostly consists of listening to "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and dancing with his dog Murray's floppy basset hound ears) to read some emails and play a couple new tunes. Featured on this episode are songs by Ron Sexsmith, Over the Rhine, Marah, and Squeeze! Happy holidays, again!
It's Bonus Song Thursday! Brian and Bill cap off the year by reading and discussing the lists sent to us by the listeners of the podcast. Before we get to that, we take a listen to local favorites the Vaughns (thevaughns.bandcamp.com). Then we make our way through the lists of recommended albums, touching on what would be a valuable Dave Matthews Band or Husker Du album to cover. Also, we dive into a little bit about modern listening habits. Happy New Year!
Bill and Brian (really just Brian) count down their favorite albums from the 2015 calendar year! First we talk about why Adele didn't make the year end list and which pop artist could release the next great album. Then we discuss Brian's criteria for his choices, including the future legacy of these albums and the benefits of year end top 10s. In the course of the conversation, artists like Chicago and Lana Del Rey come up (but were not chosen for this list). Also, Bill shares some thoughts on the defining characteristics of rap music, comparing the tone of the lyrics to jazz and the blues, while Brian discusses 2015 as a year of violence and political upheaval.
It's been a very good year for us at the Great Albums podcast, and we are forever thankful to each listener! Happy New Year and see you in the next one!
It's Bonus Song Thursday! On our previous episode, Brian and Bill were joined by their awesome photo taking significant others, Amanda Guthrie (amandaguthriephtography.com) and Beanie Zee (beaniezee.com), to share some holiday cheer and talk about some of their favorite Christmas songs. But now, as we celebrate the release of the latest Star Wars film, we too must turn to the dark side to discuss some absolutely terrible songs. These songs are the Worst (with a capital W). Paul McCartney makes another unfortunate appearance on the podcast along with some other dreck. Additionally, a listener points us in the direction of some music that takes a Nirvana song into a new sonic landscape!
Bill and Brian celebrate the season by having their significant others Beanie Zee (beaniezee.com) and Amanda Guthrie (amandaguthriephotography.com), both very talented photographers, join them to count down their favorite Christmas songs. We discuss our individual relationships with the holiday and share some memories about what what Christmas means to us. Between the 4 of us we end up with an interesting selection of songs that include the classics, some universally cherished songs, some kind of funny songs, and (of course) Bing Crosby! Merry Christmas and happy holidays!
It's Bonus Song Thursday! And Bill and Brian welcome indie rocker Andrew Kolbenschlag of Small Planet Radio (smallplanetradio.com) to continue talking about some Gaslight Anthem-adjacent music--namely, primary singer-songwriter Brian Fallon's side project the Horrible Crowes. We talk about how the band evolved over it's 5 albums, where this fits within that trajectory, how these guitar tones differ from the Gaslight anthem, and a little speculation about what Brian Fallon's upcoming solo LP will sound like.
Small Planet Radio's Andrew Kolbenschlag (vocals, guitar, and keys) joins Brian and Bill as our first guest in a month (!) to talk about New Jersey natives The Gaslight Anthem and their album The '59 Sound (2008, Side One Dummy). On their sophomore effort, the band matured into the Springsteen-by-way-of-punk-rock sound that had made them stand out on their previous release. Drawing on punk rock energy, classic guitar tones, and bittersweet anthems about youth, the band found a voice that they could call their own. Bill, Brian, and Andrew discuss how they got into the music, the band's image and how curated it might be, listening to punk as you get older, appealing to a Rock'n'Roll audience (note the capital Rs), Ted Hutt's transparent production, Brian trying to get to second base at Corey Beach on Long Island, what makes this album great, and as always a track by track review!
It's Bonus Song Thursday! And Brian and Bill are here to continue talking about Carole King's long and immensely successful career as a songwriter for other artists throughout the '60s. We take a listen to the Monkees' "Porpoise Song" written by King and her songwriting partner (and then-husband) Gerry Goffin for the 1968 film starring the band, Head. Brian details the Monkees' career as Bill is amazed in his enjoyment of the song. We also take some time to look at our Facebook page and discuss some conversations happening there, including a closer look into Bill's criticisms of OK Computer and Graceland.
Bill and Brian have finally reached the end of Massive November, and we close it out with the classic Tapestry (1971, Ode) by legendary songwriter Carol King. Having written many hits for artists like the Shirelles, the Monkees, and Aretha Franklin throughout the '60s, King struck out as a performer herself in the early '70s. With her second album as a performer, she found inspiration after moving to Laurel Canyon and coming under the influence of singer songwriters like James Taylor and Joni Mitchell. Massive hits followed. Brian and Bill discuss a specific and special memory about listening to this album in Brian's life, a fire that consumed part of Bill's house in his teenage years, the ubiquity and effect legacy acts have on the radio, Danny Kortchmar, the utility of sadness within happiness, James Taylor being a badass, what "Tapestry" would sound like as performed by Iron Maiden, and as always a track by track review!
It's Bonus Song Thanksgiving! Bill and Brian revisit the pre-Buckingham/Nicks era of Fleetwood Mac in a little more detail by discussing the Bob Welch penned "Hypnotize" off the band's 1973 album Mystery to Me. We discuss Welch's jazz influenced style and how the beginnings of the band's sound on Rumours started here. Additionally, we discuss the Great Polly Controversy of 2015 as we amend our comments on Nirvana's "Polly" and its electric versions. Happy Thanksgiving!
Bill and Brian continue the Massive Month of Massive Albums That We Also Call Massivember by talking about Fleetwood Mac's Rumours (1977, Warner Bros.) The band's second album with its most well known lineup (and 11th overall!), found them flourishing under the leadership of guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and the mystical voice of Stevie Nicks. The band reached new heights, selling 40 million copies of this album worldwide, drawing inspiration from their recent breakups, within and without the band, and internal struggles. Bill and Brian do their best to explain the long and winding road that is the story of Fleetwood Mac and how it ended in the sound and production of this album. Along the way we share some of our own break up stories and how they led to better lives, what it would sound like if Bono and the Edge joined the Rolling Stones, Lindsey Buckingham's chops, what the band lacks on their 2003 album Say You Will, "easy listening," the Goo Goo Dolls, and as always a track by track review!
It's Bonus Song Thursday! And Bill and Brian delve a little deeper into Nirvana's catalog by discussing the band's cover of David Bowie's "The Man Who Sold the World" from their MTV Unplugged performance. The guys talk about the elegiac nature of the song, how well the Unplugged performance works as an album, Nirvana's ability to bring a nuanced touch to their softer songs, and Pat Smear. Additionally, we talk about why we won't by discussing Radiohead's OK Computer anytime soon but where listeners can scratch that itch if they feel the need.
Bill and Brian continue "Massivember" (?) this week by delving into the watershed alternative album Nevermind (1991, DGC) by Nirvana. With their second album and major label debut, the band was launched into superstardom by the iconic hit single "Smells Like Teen Spirit" off the album. Paving the way for scores of alt bands to follow, the style and sound of this music was oft imitated, sometimes verging on copycats. Brian and Bill discuss Nirvana's formation, the Seattle sound, and how the music was developed. As the talk continues, we discuss who could have broke alternative if not Nirvana, Butch Vig's production, Kurt Cobain's guitar tone, Krist Noveselic's musicianship, Dave Grohl as the king of rock and roll, the tragic demise of Cobain and the band, and as always a track by track review!