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Top Rock Albums From 1971

There’s been an immense amount of focus on the great albums of 1991, as we reach the 20th Anniversary of their release.  You can’t turn on your Sirius XM radio without announcements celebrating the Big 2-0 for such classics as Nirvana’s Nevermind, Pearl Jam’s 10, Metallica’s Black Album, U2’s Achtung Baby or the Lose Your Illusion albums from Guns n Roses.  Those albums were all great in their own right, but I started wondering about the prior generations’ classics; the best from 1971. It too, was one hell of a year.

Here’s my Top 10 in Reverse Order:

10. Electric Warrior, T. Rex – The album was huge in England, but only a mild success in the States. Featured “Mambo Sun,” “Jeepster,” and the band’s biggest hit “Bang A Gong (Get It On).”
Electric Warrior - T. Rex

9. Imagine, John Lennon – The album features the fabulous “Jealous Guy” one of the greatest from one of Rock’s greatest writers.  Most of the remaining songs border on mediocre, with the exception of the title track which is unquestionably one of the greatest rock songs ever.
Imagine (Remastered) - John Lennon

8. L.A. Woman, The Doors – this was the last album for The Doors before Morrison’s death in July of 1971.  The Album features the title track, “Love Her Madly,” Riders on the Storm,” and my favorite Doors song, “The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat).'”
L.A. Woman (40th Anniversary Mixes) - The Doors

7.  The Yes Album, Yes – This one was the last for keyboardist Tony Kaye, but more importantly the first for guitar virtuoso Steve Howe.  The album feature three progressive rock standards: “Yours Is No Disgrace,” “Starship Trooper,” and “I’ve Seen All Good People.”
The Yes Album (Remastered) - Yes

6. Sticky Fingers, The Rolling Stones – The bands 11th album, and their first entry in the 70’s, kicks off with “Brown Sugar” and features “Bitch,” “Wild Horses'” and “Dead Flowers.” It was the first album on the band’s new Rolling Stones Records label.Sticky Fingers (Remastered) - The Rolling Stones

5. Aqualung, Jethro Tull – Ian Anderson and his ever changing crew at their best. The album kicks off with their classic “Aqualung” title track and also includes two other Tull staples, “Cross-Eyed Mary” and “Locomotive Breath.”
Aqualung - Jethro Tull

4. Fragile, Yes – This was the band’s first release featuring Rick Wakeman on keyboards, and he made an immediate impression.  The album starts out with a beautiful intro from Steve Howe as they kick into their seminal hit “Roundabout.” The album also includes the classics “Heart of the Sunrise” and “Long Distance Runaround.”
Fragile (Remastered) - Yes

3. Every Picture Tells A Story, Rod Stewart – Aside from the excellent title track (featuring fellow Faces alum Ronnie Wood), this album arguably includes two of Rockin’ Rod’s all-time best: “Maggie May” and “Reason To Believe.” Interestingly, “Maggie May,” was initially the flip-side to “Reason To Believe,” until the public got a hold of it. “Mandolin Wind” and “(I Know) I’m Losing You” are also packed onto the excellent second side.
Every Picture Tells a Story - Rod Stewart

2.Led Zeppelin IV, Led Zeppelin – (aka Zoso) – the tricky lads from England never named this album, so it has basically become known as Led Zeppelin 4.  The album kicks into high gear with the amazing “Black Dog” and also features “Rock and Roll,” “Misty Mountain Hop,” “Going to California,” and an obscure dance hit you may have heard titled “Stairway To Heaven.” The album closes with the under-appreciated “When the Levee Breaks.” Useless trivia: In Fast Times At Ridgemont High; Damone tells Rat to play side 1 of Led Zeppelin 4 to get a girl to make out.  Rat plays Side 2 of Physical Graffiti. Damone gets the girl, so obviously it pays to know your rock and roll.
Led Zeppelin IV (Remastered) - Led Zeppelin

1.  Who’s Next, The Who – Interestingly, this album started out as a disastrous attempt to record Lifehouse, a follow-up rock opera to the band’s huge 1969 hit Tommy.  Pete Townshend later admitted he almost killed himself during those failed sessions.  The band strung together the remnants for this fantastic album. Every song is a classic, from the opening keyboard notes of “Baba O’Riley” to the last chord on “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” this album is damn near perfect. The remaining tracks are “Bargain,” “Love Ain’t For Keeping,” “My Wife,” “The Song is Over,” “Getting In Tune,” Going Mobile,” and my personal favorite “Behind Blue Eyes.”

A few others I considered: At Fillmore East by The Allman Brothers Band. Didn’t include it because it was a live album, but the 23+ minute version of “Whipping Post” is one of the best live songs ever. Pearl, Janis Joplin, released after her death, which includes “Bobby McGee” and “Mercedes Benz” and Sir Elton’s Madman Across The Water which starts off with a bang: “Tiny Dancer” and “Levon” but the rest of the album doesn’t compare.

There you have it the Top 10 from 40 years ago.  You can check out the Top 10 from 1991 and decide which generation was better. For my money, I’d rather be stuck in the 70’s on this one.

Mike Gavan

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Some Barenaked Love

I remember the first time I heard these off-beat Canadian rockers, thinking they’d be a flash in the pan. As it turns out, they spent years in the spotlight. They dominated the non-Grunge rock scene of the 90’s from their fantastic 1992 debut release of Gordon through the 2000 release of Maroon. Their song-writing was different, and the lyrics more creative and interesting than anything we’d heard in years.  Over that decade, powered by the creative duo of Ed Robertson and Steven Page, they sold nearly 30 million albums, and developed a huge and loyal fan base.

Here’s my take on their Top 12 tunes, including my favorite lyrics from each. You’ll notice that there’s not much after the 90’s, as I admittedly lost some interest after the 2003 release of the mediocre Everything To Everyone, and Steven Page’s subsequent legal/drug problems and ultimate parting of ways with the band.

So, here’s the RARA’s Farm Farmer’s Dozen, including a bonus track:

Bonus Track: “Uncle Elwyn” – this is a hidden track on 1996’s Rock Spectacle.  It’s one of their infamous spontaneous raps, focused on Ed’s video-crazed uncle.  Favorite Lyric:“Elywn is tall, Elwyn is small, Elwyn plays a mean basketball.”

12.  “Hello City” – this is the first song off of their debut album Gordon.  I love the way the stand-up bass dominates this song. A great way to kick-off a fantastic album. Favorite Lyric: “The same people, the same drinks, the same music, the same quicksand.”

11. “Never is Enough” – One of my favorites from 1998’s Stunt, the album that thrust the band into International stardom. This one features Ed on vocals. Favorite Lyric: “The world’s your oyster shell, but what’s that funny smell?”

10. “”I’ll Be That Girl” – OK, I’ll admit it, I really don’t have a clue what it’s about, but I love singing along with this happy ditty, where I think Steven sings about killing the girl of his dreams. Favorite Lyric: “Then even a eunuch won’t resist the magic of a kiss, from such as me.”

9. “Pinch Me” – This was the big hit off of Maroon, and another one featuring Ed’s rap stylings. It’s infectious and was a hit with the masses. Favorite Lyric: “I could hide out under there, I just made you say ‘underwear.”

8. “Alcohol” – This one rocks, and got some nice airplay on rock stations.  Now, if I was only at least a little familiar with the subject of the song 🙂 Favorite Lyric: “Forget the cafe lattes, screw the raspberry iced tea. A Malibu and Coke for you, a G & T for me.”

7. “What a Good Boy” – Another pick from Gordon, This is a beautiful song about a young man coming to grips with life, Page’s vocals are perfect! Favorite Lyric: “Afraid of change, afraid of staying the same, when temptation calls we just look away.” 

6. “Brian Wilson” – Yup, another one from Gordon. It starts with Page driving to a record shop and spirals into thoughts on the genius behind the Beach Boys and his struggles with mental illness and obesity. Favorite Lyric: “Wondering where the hell all the love has gone, playing my guitar and building castles in the sun, and singing “Fun, Fun, Fun.”

5. “Old Apartment” – Page sings about breaking into his old apartment and reminiscing about the okay old days and a seemingly rocky relationship.  This song was actually played on  Beverly Hills 90210 (but I was way too hip to have watched that).  This is the only cut from Born On a Pirate Ship on the list. Favorite Lyric: “How is the neighbor downstairs? How is her temper this year? I turned up your TV and stomped on the floor just for fun.”

4. Life, In a Nutshell” – This is the only selection off of 1994’s Maybe You Should Drive. This one is a fun romp through a good relationship, again featuring great vocals and playful lyrics.  Favorite Lyric: “She memorized every pencil crayon color in the boxHer blue-green eyes complement the burnt sienna in her locks.”

3. “Some Fantastic” – This one is a nice collaboration between Robertson and Page, and the most unique song off of their hugely successful 1998 album Stunt.  This one is just different than anything else they’ve done, and that says a lot for this very diverse band. It’s a different take at a love song; the piano, drums, guitar, vocals… all perfect. Favorite Lyric: “And when we’re done we’ll boil ’em down for glue, that we can use to re-adhere your lips to mine if you were here.”

2. “Call and Answer” – A Steven Page masterpiece, featuring his amazing vocals throughout (even the back-up vocals are his). This single off of Stunt captures a couple struggling to reclaim a fractured relationship. Poignant, timeless and passionate!  Favorite Lyric: “I think it’s the getting to the point that is the hardest part.”

1. “1,000,000” – This actually was released on Gordon and then re-appears on Pirate Ship, but I picked the version from Rock Spectacle, their 1996 live album. It starts off as “Grade 9” a great tune of its own accord, and jumps into a rollciking version of $1,000,000 with new lyrics and plenty of audience participation. Fun stuff on a song that captures the essence of these great performers doing what they do best. Favorite Lyric: “Haven’t you always wanted a monkey?”

There you go my Top 12. I’m sure there are many other worthwhile candidates, but at least now you have this cretin’s perspective!

Top Albums from 1991, In honor of Lollapalooza

2011 is the 20th Anniversary of the wildly successful Lollapalooza festival, where Eminem is entertaining a few hundred thousand smelly, tired and likely inebriated folks at Chicago’s Grant Park as I type this…  I remember Jane’s Addiction and Nine Inch Nails leading the bill on that first circuit, but couldn’t recall whether it was really a good year for music.  Digging  through my vinyl collection, I’d say there weren’t really too many worthwhile albums, but the top few were absolute killers – leaving a lasting impression on the Rock and Roll landscape for many years.

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So, here they are, according to me:

      10. Guns and Roses – Use Your Illusion II

        Volume II of this set was clearly the better of the two.  This one included classics like “Civil War,” “You Could Be Mine,” and a tremendous version of Dylan’s oft-covered “Knocking On Heaven’s Door.”

Use Your Illusion II - Guns N' Roses

      9. Ozzy Osbourne – No More Tears

        This was Ozzy’s biggest hit album since his Blizzard of Oz debut effort, and featured the title track, “Time After Time,” and “Mama, I’m Coming Home”

No More Tears - Ozzy Osbourne

      8. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Blood Sugar Sex Magik

        This was the Peppers breakthrough album and biggest commercial success. You’ll find “Give It Away,” “Suck My Kiss,” “Under the Bridge” and my all-time favorite Chili Peppers tune “Breaking the Girl.”

Blood Sugar Sex Magik - Red Hot Chili Peppers

      7. Voice of the Beehive – Honey Lingers

        This album got a wee bit of airplay on college radio, but deserved much more attention. If you haven’t heard it, I highly recommend that you check out the great harmonies and poppy tunes. The whole album is good, particularly “Monsters and Angels,” “Little Gods,” and a great cover of the Partridge Family’s “I Think I Love You.”

Honey Lingers - Voice of the Beehive

      6. Spin Doctors – Pocket Full of Kryptonite

        Their debut album, and by far their most successful.  This one was packed with great tunes, including “Jimmy Olsen Blue’s,” “What Time Is It,” “Two Princes,” amd “ Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong.”

Pocket Full of Kryptonite - Spin Doctors

      5. REM – Out of Time

        This is not the band’s best album, nor most successful, but there’s lots of good stuff packed in here, including the under-rated “Texarkana.” You’ll also hear “Radio Song,” “Losing My Religion” and “Shiny Happy People”

Out of Time - R.E.M.

      4. Pearl Jam – Ten

        These next four albums are clearly in a different league than anything else we heard in 1991.  Ten was the explosive debut of this Seattle band’s powerful new sound.  It ushered them onto the scene and along with our #3 selection, inspired the Grunge period of rock and roll for the rest of the decade. The album features “Once,” “Even Flow” and one of rock’s greatest songs ever. “Jeremy.”

      3. Nirvana – Nevermind

        No, I am not on drugs. I realize this is a great album, made a marked impact on the direction of rock music and sold over 30 million copies, but I truly feel it was only the 3rd best album in 1991.  Along with Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains, Nirvana led the Seattle area grunge scene.  This is the album where you’ll find rock anthems such as “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “In Bloom” and “Come As You Are.” It’s a great effort, but I truly feel it gets more credit than it deserves primarily due to Kurt Cobain’s untimely death.

      2. Metallica – Black album

        This is the one that put these heavy metal monsters on the world-wide map.  This album sold 20 million copies and was still releasing singles 2 years after it was rolled out.  Every song is great, and they are all timeless; as good and as relevant today as they were 20 years ago. The biggest hits on the album “Enter Sandman,” “The Unforgiven,” “Wherever I May Roam” and “Nothing Else Matters” caused some of their original fans to claim they had sold out. Although the music was more refined, it still contained the same passion, drive and energy as their early 80’s stuff.

      1. U2 – Achtung Baby

        In ’91, U2 was at a cross roads, their last album Rattle and Hum kind of meandered, and it seemed as though the band didn’t know where they should be headed.  I recall this album’s release delayed a few times, and then when I finally heard it, thought ‘wow’ this is something different. A little alternative, some industrial techno and a dash of dance: as it turns out, it was a recipe for success.  The tracks are very diverse, but every song is a great listen, and they actually seem to go together very well. The track listing includes “Zoo Station,” “Even Better Than the Real Thing,” “One,” “The Fly,” “Mysterious Ways” and my favorite “Ultraviolet (Light My Way).”

The Top Driving Songs of All-Time


As I get ready to embark on a 20 hour road trip up the East Coast, I was thinking about the best driving songs of all-time. Back in the day, it was Jolt Cola and No-Doz, now it’ll be Monster and 5 Hour Energy, but it doesn’t matter if you’re stuck listening to Air Supply and those frenetic backwoods preachers who monopolize small town late night radio.  I’ll have my trusty XM radio to get me through the many miles of rock-free radio badlands, but it would be nice to throw a handful of tunes on my iPod to help me through the painful late night hours as my body tries to nod off.

So, the Best Driving Songs of All-Time? That pretty subjective, eh? It sure is – and I’ll admit, my tastes are probably a lot different than yours. I tend to like the songs a little heavier and maybe a bit darker than the norm. No, you will not see Eddie Rabbit’s “I Love the Rainy Nights” on this list, but you’ll know most of these tunes.

My rules – Pretty Simple: I like the song and only one per artist.

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So, here they are in reverse order – one for every hour of the trip:

20. “Stop,” Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, 2003 and  “Head On,” The Jesus and Mary Chain, 1989 – sorry, couldn’t leave either one out with a clear conscience. Two hard charging cuts.
19.  “Hey Tonight,” Creedence Clearwater Revival, 1971 – Great for cruising down a long country road, singing along with your buddies.
18. ” L.S.F.,” Kasabian, 2004 – Good modern driving stuff from these talented Brits.
17. “Running Down a Dream,” Tom Petty, 1989 – Another artist with a bunch to choose from. Not my favorite Petty song, but the best to drive to.
16. “Sleep Alone,” Heart, 1983 – This one from Passion Works is very under-rated, with fantastic guitar work and great soundtrack for the highway.
15. “Highway Star,” Deep Purple, 1972 – Machine Head is just a great driving album with a few worthy candidates, I thought this was a little better than “Space Truckin.”
14. “Life On A Chain” Pete Yorn,  2001 – under-rated song, and a great driving tune, from an under-rated artist.
13. “Lunatic Fringe,” Red Rider, 1981 – featured in half of the movies and TV shows from the 80’s – typically while the protagonist was fleeing down a dark roadway in the dark of night.
12. “Midnite Maniac,” Krokus, 1984 – these hard rockers were the pride of Switzerland, and had some great driving music. This was their best.
11. “Slow Ride,” Foghat, 1975 – another classic rock tune that is just perfect in the car.

SMS Audio STREET by 50

10. “Lucretia My Reflection,” Sisters of Mercy – This 1988 tune has a great driving bass line and haunting lyrics about the destruction of an empire. Cheery stuff to keep your energy going.  Crank it up!

9. “Immigrant Song,” Led Zeppelin – A 1970 song about Iceland, surprisingly from my least favorite Led Zep album. It’s a great driving tune that starts with a wicked scream from Robert Plant and features a furious driving Bonham beat the remainder of the song.

8. “The Passenger,” Iggy Pop – This one was reborn a few years ago, but initially released in 1977.  Written about riding a train in Germany. If it’s good for train travel, that’s close enough for us.

7.  “Take It Easy,” Eagles – It was the Eagles first single way back in 1972. This Jackson Browne penned hit requires the top down, or at least the windows open.

6. “Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues,” The Eels – This was actually an after thought and a bonus track on their 2000 album Daisies of the Galaxy. It later became the theme to Road Trip. Fun, fun stuff; “It’s a beautiful day, uh huh…”

5. “Gonna Raise Hell,” Cheap Trick, 1979.  9 minutes and 20 seconds of perfection.  Bun E. Carlos drives the beat, Robin’s vocals are fantastic, and Rick’s guitar doesn’t exactly suck either.

4. “Sherry Darling,” Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band – Springsteen has more than a few good candidates, but this one from 1980’s The River, is a blast to drive to – again: windows down. “I got some beer, and the highway’s free.”

3. “Ride On,” AC/DC – From the 1976 Dirty Deeds album, this haunting driving song is Bon Scott at his absolute best. So perfectly Bon, that Brian Johnson won’t even touch it. Perfect for late night cruising down a deserted highway.

2. “Back Where I Started,” Box of Frogs – the only hit from this reformed incarnation of the Yardbirds. The 1983 hit features Jeff Beck’s guitar and a killer beat. I picture this one cranking loudly as I drive through the swamps of Louisiana or backwoods of WV trying to avoid the locals from Deliverance.

1. “Radar Love,” Golden Earring – This 1973 hit from the veteran Dutch rockers was an instant driving classic. It stands the test of time and is as great today as it was 30 years ago. It was the first tune I thought of, and nothing I considered knocked it out of my top spot. Crank down the windows, crank up the volume and watch out for the cops…

So, how did I do? If I survive the drive, I look forward to reading your feedback.

-Cretin-

9/19 – Yo Animals – I just set-up a Playlist on Spotify with the great majority of these songs. Check it out next time you hit Route 66, The Highway to Hell, or the Backstreets… RARA’s Farm Top Driving Songs