249 to 200
249. Derek Trucks Band
T: MOR blues funk… less please.
M: I’m beginning to think the jammies could organize a political campaign and elect one of their own president.
248. Emerson, Lake & Palmer
T: Welcome Back My Friends… to the song that never ends.
M: What a lucky man I was to be away from the radio when this wonk was played.
247. Phil Ochs
T: Always second banana to Dylan (who isn’t?), Ochs’ political agit folk wears well. His acerbic wit gave his best songs a bite unmatched by most of his peers. I started with the Chords of Fame compilation, a fine introduction to this mostly forgotten maverick.
M: I can’t say that I know his work well, but if he really was the inspiration for “Positively 4th Street.” I’d like to thank him.
T: Overwrought post grunge rock....I really thought these guys had faded completely from public consciousness. Or maybe I just wished that. Stop the YRock Madness.
M: Do I alone loathe this band?
T: Pleasant AAA pop-rock… polite party music sure not to offend. I’ll bet these guys eat all their veggies.
M: Guster? Really?
244. Wilson Pickett
T: “In The Midnight Hour”, “Mustang Sally”, “Land of 1000 Dances”, “Funky Broadway” – what did bar bands do before discovering the salacious, swaggering southern soul of the Wicked Pickett?
M: The near-perfect soul singer, all knowing sophistication and raw physical power.
243. Linda Ronstadt
T: Incredible run from 1971 to 1977 of sweet country rock, Ronstadt was the pre-eminent interpreter of budding SoCal songwriters. And those early promo shots… my gawd girl.
M: Quite the pipes, made an unusually handsome living by covering songs that we great to begin with.
242. Crowded House
T: The New Zealand Beatles, the Australian Beatles… Neil Finn proves himself to be a pop classicist whose Byrds and Beatles influenced pop rock charmers conquered the world in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Masterful.
M: In sanding off Split Enz’s new wave edges, Neil Finn produced a band of pure, smooth pop, allowing his songs to shine through free of any affectations.
241. Howlin’ Wolf
T: Primal blues giant… lock up the kids ‘cause this big bad Wolf will blow your house down
M: An enormous presence who earned his name, the Wolf’s snarling, raucous, hard-ass Chicago blues still leaps off the radio.
240. Uncle Tupelo
T: The pride of Belleville,IL. Unwilling torchbearers of an alt-country movement they wanted no part of, Tupelo mixed the bracing rush of punk rock with the staid conventions of country music to create an intoxicating stew of balls out rockers and front porch hoedowns. I loved ‘em and you should too.
M: A great band that spawned two more, Uncle Tupelo’s early synthesis of punk rock and traditional country morphed into the sound that is the very definition of alt.country. A ridiculously important band.
239. John Denver
T: When “Take Me Home, Country Roads” was played the other day, I surprised myself by not only knowing every single word, but by singing along at an embarrassing volume. So I’ve got a soft spot for the early 70’s soft rock king of AM radio. Who knew?
M: It makes no sense to me, but I like him. I’ve always liked him. There’s something gentle, honest and comforting in his voice, and he was a better songwriter than he was ever given credit for. And bonus points for his principled, intelligent stand before the PMRC.
238. Thelonious Monk
T: Unbelievable stuff on the radio… another jazz giant I’ll have to learn more about post-countdown.
M: I love everything about Monk – the crooked melodies, the hard Spartan piano style, the space between notes, and the way he got up and danced during the other solos. A half century later, his songs still sound radical.
237. Beth Orton
T: Her trip-hop roots notwithstanding, Beth Orton fits the classic singer-songwriter mold and has a world weary voice that gives gravitas to songs that are sometimes a bit thin lyrically. If XPN ever does the top 885 covers, at the top of my list would be Orton’s stunning, heartbreaking take on the Ronettes’ classic “I Wish I Never Saw The Sunshine”.
M: I think the new album is unexceptional, but she’s made a career out of warm, well-crafted songs that have earned her the following she deserves.
T: You can’t have your Cake… on second thought, you can have your Cake. Yuck.
M: It’s fun, for sure, but pretty slight. The problem with ironic music is that once you get the irony, what’s left?
235. Jonatha Brooke
T: Granola alert…there’s bound to be more. Brooke’s mellow alternative folk is not distinctive enough to set her apart from the pack or awful enough to make me change the channel.
M: You probably weren’t expecting this, but I think she’s pretty good. Not this good, mind you, but I enjoyed Steady Pull quite a lot. That Alan Parsons cover, though, sheesh.
234. Mary Chapin Carpenter
T: Above average country folkster who could be poignant (“This Shirt”, “Stones in the Road”), infectiously rollicking (“Down at The Twist and Shout”) or ickily annoying (“I Feel Lucky” and “Shut Up And Kiss Me”). Gave Lucinda William her biggest payday with top 5 country hit “Passionate Kisses”.
M: Robert Christgau once wrote that Carpenter “cut the tongue out” of “Passionate Kisses,” a song penned and originally recorded by Lucinda Williams. It’s exactly that absence of any sense of sex or danger that makes MCC’s music such a snooze for me.
233. Chris Isaak
T: A throwback to Orbison, Pitney and the Everlys, Chris Isaak’s always been a bit of a one trick pony… a little Isaak goes a long way.
M: Charisma out the wazoo and plenty of skill with a song, but this is pretty rarefied air.
232. The Pogues
T: Featuring Ireland’s poet laureate Shane MacGowan, the Pogues mixed hyper punk energy with Irish trad folk to create brilliant, drunken records that felt like instant classics. If not for MacGowan’s self destructive tendencies, we coulda been writing about this band a couple days from now.
M: It makes so much sense in retrospect, giving traditional Irish music the blistering punk rock treatment, but it seemed so radical then. And though raucous drunkenness is the band’s calling card, they could do so much more, as evidenced on the strikingly lovely “A Pair of Brown Eyes.”
231. Sex Pistols
T: The Pistols cathartic rush ushered in a new regime in a blaze of glory as they became the de facto face of punk rock. Never Mind the Bollocks still burns brightly as one of the most influential, confrontational, beautiful records ever made. Anarchy indeed
M: The first time I heard Steve Jones’s guitar kick in on “Holidays in the Sun,” I had the sensation of hurtling through space. It’s not the least bit of hyperbole to say that Never Mind the Bollocks changed my life.
T: I am not aMUSEd.
M: The Y-Rock effect in full effect. New mod rock “it” band is the bastard spawn of Radiohead and The Darkness.
229. Al Green
T: “Take Me to the River”, “I’m So Tired of Being Alone”, “Let’s Stay Together”, “Love and Happiness”, “I’m Still In Love With You”. Questions?
M: Everyone knows the standards – “Let’s Stay Together,” “Love and Happiness” – but Green’s entire catalog teems with songs of sensuous beauty – “Have You Been Making Out OK,” “Simply Beautiful,” “The Love Sermon” – propelled by Al Jackson’s sublime work on the skins.
228. Alice in Chains
T: Alice might be in chains but I’m in shock.
M: I don’t love everything these guys did, but “Would” and “Man in a Box” are pure metallic perfection.
227. G. Love
T: Too much love.
M: Really, who among us doesn’t like cold beverages?
226. Citizen Cope
T: Citizen Nope.
M: It’s not so much that I think he’s bad, I just don’t think he’s that good. Let’s pretend this is Julian Cope. World, shut your mouth!
225. Widespread Panic
T: I just threw up in my mouth.
M: Saw these guys on Austin City Limits way back when and really enjoyed it, so I bought a live album. Zzzzzz. And then tried a studio album. Zzzzzz. And then tried to stay up to catch the ACL rerun. Zzzzzz.
224. Jane’s Addiction
T: Trip says “Something’s Shocking!”
M: I wanted so much to love this band. I bought Nothing’s Shocking the moment it came out. And try as I might, it never happened for me. Not denying the high points (“Pigs in Zen” rocks my world), but Perry Farrell’s preening mostly leaves me cold.
223. Rage Against the Machine
T: All right I get it. They’re pissed. The man’s got them down.
M: This is more like it. Though the preachy polemics have a cartoonish flair, the scorching fusion of punk, metal and hip-hop is deadly serious. Sleep now in the fire!
222. Dolly Parton
T: Two boobs up… waaaaaay up.
M: If you can get past the caricature, you’ll find real brilliance, an exceptional writer and singer who ably curates a great American tradition.
221. Earth, Wind & Fire
T: If Sly and the Family Stone aren’t the best soul funk band ever, it’s these guys.
M: As a kid, I was first attracted to them by the name – it just sounded so cool and epic – which they more than live up to on a whole slew of pop-funk classics.
220. Rod Stewart
T: Before banal disco cash-ins and the strafing of American pop classics, there was a time when Rod Stewart may have been the greatest of them all. In the heady days from 1969 to 1973, he was the driving force behind 7 stone classics (the first 4 Rod Stewart records plus the three Faces records). My # 2.
M: I’ve been undergoing a Rod renaissance of late, devouring the Faces’ box set and picking up the aptly-titled Never a Dull Moment. Sure, he cashed in, trading his cred for an enormous pile of cash and a string of supermodel paramours (and can you blame him?), but before that, he was nothing short of electrifying, one of the best of his era.
219. Electric Light Orchestra
T: Bloated, symphonic pop? And even wierder, I like it. A lot of duff album filler but their slick singles were welcome 70’s ear candy
M: A handful of these tunes (“Do Ya,” “Mr. Blue Sky”) are irresistible. Props for using orchestral arrangements while leaving classical ambitions behind.
218. Etta James
T: I can’t tell you anything about Etta James you don’t know. One tough mama.
M: I’d rather go blind that to spend much time without her.
217. Ray Lamontagne
T: Trouble… there’s definitely gonna be some if one more pundit compares this .250 hitter to a slugger like Van Morrison.
M: I have trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble, thinking he should rank so high, but I get the sullen appeal.
T: A new wave Lennon-McCartney doppleganger, Chris Difford and Glenn Tillbrook created so many perfect 3 minute pop songs that I have just inducted them into the rock and roll hall of fame. Bummer that their biggest hit “Tempted” had hired gun Paul Carrack’s lead vocals instead of the wondrous Glenn Tillbrook.
M: Long ago, I developed a rule. If I can’t decide what to play, I grab Singles 45s and Under. I hear “there’s a stain on my notebook where your coffee cup was” and all is well.
215. Neil Diamond
T: One of the few Brill Building songwriters able to make the leap to hitmaking performer, his late 60’s/early 70’s singles were sparkling gems that ruled the airwaves.Of course the good stuff only lasted about 5 years… followed by over 30 years of dreck.
M: I once heard him call Hibbing, Minnesota’s favorite son “Bobby” Dylan, and it didn’t seem all that wrong. Could anyone else in the world pull that off?
T: Lo-fi indie mavericks whose blending of dadaist lyrics, white noise guitar screech and genuine pop hooks made them the “it” underground band of the early 90’s. They never topped Slanted and Enchanted, but they never had a steep falloff either. Thanks for playing “Summer Babe” on the radio.
M: How many times did I play “Zurich is Stained” in 1992? Many, many times.
213. Buddy Guy
T: Damn right he’s got the blues.
M: The greatest living master of Chicago blues, Mr. Guy and his polka dot strat tie us firmly to a time when Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf weren’t just myths, but men.
212. Smokey Robinson & the Miracles
T: Another transcendent Motown singles band, I’m throwing an overused sobriquet at Smokey… genius.
M: Smokey Robinson was a machine in the 1960’s, one of the most relentlessly talented pop auteurs we’ve known. “Tracks of My Tears” and “Tears of a Clown” are two of the best singles ever, and there’s more where they came from. Should’ve done more “Tears” songs.
211. Pete Townshend
T: Hard rock’s greatest songwriter was able to step outside the Who to forge a strong solo career. Who Came First, Rough Mix and Empty Glass are required listening.
M: I bought the reissue of All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes recently, and it sounded as good as it did when I first loved it 20+ years ago, a time when that record, Empty Glass and Scoop comprised a ridiculously large chunk of my listening.
210. John Mellencamp
T: Billion selling midwest hitmaker… 80’s Coug is some damn good sh*t. Extra credit for pulling my brother’s date up on stage at the Bijou so he could roll around on the floor with her. His reaction… high five. Who wouldn’t want to be a rock star?
M: The kid got called up to the bigs way too early, back when he was Johnny Cougar, the young idol with lots of swagger but few songs. So who would’ve guessed that he’d become and man and an artist overnight, not to mention a populist hero? Marrying a supermodel means you’re a rock star. Moving her back to Indiana means you’re a man of the people with an extra-hot wife.
209. Keb’ Mo’
T: Affable, laid back country bluesman who’s a good listen but way out of his league here as we approach # 200.
M: Bland and blue.
208. My Morning Jacket
T: MMJ set themselves apart from jam band nation with actual good songs and a charismatic lead singer. May actually deserve this spot in a few years.
M: Wild-eyed Southern boys with Boston Pops aspirations, MMJ is one of the most interesting bands going, able to turn out delicate ruminations and thunderous exclamations with equal aplomb.
207. The Jayhawks
T: Alt country beacons who meld gorgeous harmonies to poingant, melancholy lyrics and created a Byrds/Burritos for the 90’s.
M: These guys do a Grand Funk cover and make me like it. That’s powerful.
206. Bright Eyes
T: Literate, uber confessional wunderkind whose followers are made mostly of swooning teenage girls and brooding teenage boys…and me. The band you love to hate and I love you to hate them. The voice of right now.
M: Obviously more popular among the XPN proletariat than the intelligentsia on the message boards, where young Mr. Oberst is routinely filleted. And though the vocals veer toward twee territory, I’ll admit that the kid is a precocious talent, as demonstrated most vividly on Lifted, or the Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground, one of the most impressive indie song cycles in recent memory.
205. Sonic Youth
T: Godparents of indie rock… 70,000 bands owe their sound to these New York legends.
M: Noise as musical architecture interests me less now than it did in my formative years, but when this legendary collective digs its talons into a song like “Teenage Riot,” “100%” or the impossibly gorgeous “The Diamond Sea,” I still swoon.
204. Guns N’ Roses
T: 80’s hard rock gods… Axl’s a waste. But if you don’t own Appetite For Destruction, you’re simply not a rock fan.
M: Flat-out thrilling tales of decadence, lean and hard as the band’s drug-thin physiques.
203. Fiona Apple
T: Why can’t I get into her? Stop it.
M: A little heavy on the melodrama, but a striking talent.
202. Damien Rice
T: O was a really good record but wassup with this placement? A prospect.
M: The songs are lovely, but always seem in danger of sprouting butterfly wings and flying away.
201. Annie Lennox
T: Solo she leaves me cold and who votes for her and not the Eurythmics? And she’s gotta have better songs than the hideous Clash cover that was played.
M: Annie ahead of Eurythmics? Could the Tourists be still to come? Don’t answer that.
200. Shawn Colvin
T: I love Shawn Colvin and not Fiona Apple. Why? Better songs. And special mention to this inspirational verse from “I Don’t Know Why”:
And I don't know why
I don't know anything at all
But if there were no music
Then I would not get through
M: Her duet with Ernie on “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon” is the musical highlight of the Elmopalooza video.