299 to 250
T: We want the funk! Give up the funk!
M: It’s 1977. I’m nine years old, having lunch with my mother and her co-workers at a grill and bar on the edge of the campus of Eastern Illinois University. The college guy at the jukebox says something about Parliament. I tell him to save his quarter, I’m playing “Flash Light.”
298. Martin Sexton
T: I’d have been happy with Charlie Sexton, Will Sexton, the Sexton Pistols or Carter the Unstoppable Sexton Machine at # 298… but Martin Sexton, I don’t think so.
M: You’ll find him in the record bins right next to Ron Sexsmith, who belongs on this countdown.
297. Al Stewart
T: I’d have been happy with Billy Stewart, Gary Stewart, John Stewart, Wynn Stewart, Stew, Marty Stuart, Stuart Adamson or Stewart Copeland at # 297… but Al Stewart, I don’t think so. Although I will cop to being a big fan of 1974’s Past, Present and Future… it did sound a wee bit fey and dated on the radio.
M: “Year of the Cat” and “Time Passages” were in the air when I was a kid. Stewart sounded like Gerry Rafferty without the menace.
T: Oh Moby… trippy, detached, hypnotic, brooding ambient techno trance electronica that could move mountains. Nah… not really… I’m not really a soundscapes guy. Gives me some old time rock and roll please.
M: My mother-in-law’s favorite recording artist of all time. He seems to have peaked with Play, which is a masterwork, but a bunch of the singles that came before are keepers, too.
295. Billy Bragg
T: No one mixes songs about love and politics better than Billy Bragg… and he can create quite a ruckus for one guy. Yay Billy.
M: “I saw two shooting stars last night/I wished on them but they were only satellites/Is it wrong to wish on space hardware/I wish, I wish, I wish you’d care.” You could work a whole career and never write anything so good.
T: Next countdown can the YRockers get a separate ballot? I’m starting to think Limp Bizkit and Korn might make the top 10.
M: Pedestrian mod rock (and I mean no offense to pedestrians).
T: This is more like it! Yelping gang vocals over blasting rhythms, S-K brung the rock. I’ll add them to my rock grrrl list with Patti, Chrissie and Joan.
M: Carrie’s caterwauling can be tough to take at times, but, holy smokes, could these girls rock out.
292. John Fogerty
T: Hell I got Creedence at # 4 but no way Fogerty rates a solo mention. But if you voted for him… I understand. We haven’t really carped on song selection – but how could both “Rocking All Over the World” and “Almost Saturday Night” be skipped? Am I right Scooter?
M: The only man to be sued for sounding too much like himself and win, Fogerty remains a national treasure.
291. Alanis Morrissette
T: You Oughta Know this selection is Ironic.
M: Years ago, unknowns Alanis Morrissette and Jennifer Trynin had back-to-back songs on a CMJ Music Monthly CD sampler. I boldly predicted that Trynin would be huge and Morrissette would fade into oblivion. Who wants a stock tip?
290. Buffalo Springfield
T: They burned briefly but oh so brightly. They couldn’t help but implode with all that talent and all those huge egos. But most of the stuff you listen to… it’s got its roots in the Springfield.
M: The analogy suffers (and the reader along with it), but the BS was like the world’s greatest Triple-A team, the last stop before hall-of-fame immortality.
289. Neil Finn
T: Another head scratcher as a solo artist. His more acclaimed work was with Split Enz and sure to come later Crowded House, where he’s a master craftsman who was a worthy heir to classic Brill Building pop.
M: His best work was with bands (and are Split Enz not going to make it?), but Finn has consistently churned out pop gems now for more than a quarter century.
288. Charlie Parker
T: Charlie Parker, ladies and gentlemen, the greatest jazz saxophonist ever. And I’ve even have some of his records. I’ll bet my partner sets you straight.
M: Finally, a hero local to my hometown, one we gladly share with the world. Come to Kansas City and see his giant bronze head and his plastic saxophone.
287. Suzanne Vega
T: The midwife of the second generation of female confessional singer-songwriters, enjoy Vega now before the granola glut kicks in.
M: I remember hearing “Marlena on the Wall” the first time and thinking she had a gift. I wish she had worked more.
286. Carly Simon
T: Queen of the pop charts in 1971 and 1972, she deserves to be on this list for No Secrets alone. Or actually just the album cover – is it cold in here or is just her?
M: Deep down, does anyone not like “You’re So Vain”?
285. Sigur Ros
T: Sigur Ros… say it fast a few times like Figaro, Figaro, Figaro. I got nuthin’.
M: What a leftfield choice this high on the list. Big ups, Iceland!
284. Stone Temple Pilots
T: Bands like this, to paraphrase Bon Jovi, gave alt-rock a “bad name… bad name”. The nadir of faceless 90’s rock.
283. The Strokes
T: Great cheekbones and haircuts, the Strokes took attitude and ennui plus sharp songwriting chops to the top of the charts. Diminishing returns since would beg the question “Is This It”?
M: After the relentless pre-release hype, I though Is This It? bore the perfect name. Pretty good, no doubt, but just pretty good. (ed.- you know the apologia by now; two time zones, one brain).
282. Hall & Oates
T: You thought I was gonna dog Hall & Oates, didn’t ya? While they had their share of cringeworthy top 40 fare (“Maneater”, “I Can’t Go For That”), there’s no denying the appeal of Daryl Hall’s blue eyed soul… the boy can sing. And like Punxsutawney Phil, if I hear “Fall in Philadelphia” in October, it means another 12 months without an Eagles Super Bowl victory. Sorry folks.
M: I’m not too proud to tell you that I like a lot of the cotton candy these guys spun. Empty calories, sure, but sweet and light.
281. Jeff Beck
T: The first of the 60’s Brit guitar gods to show up, Beck’s career has been the lowest profile but he’s never been less than fascinating. Here’s one classic rocker I’d actually like to hear more of on the radio.
M: Blow by Blow and Wired still sound great to me, what jazz/rock fusion ought to be.
280. Modest Mouse
T: His super powers allow him to fly, and make him incredibly strong and invulnerable.
M: Here they come to save the day! (ed.- are we both this good or this bad? Don’t answer).
279. Phil Collins
T: His super powers allow him to fly, and make him incredibly strong and invulnerable.
M: I actually thought the first couple of solo affairs had their share of lightweight appeal, but after that, I wish he’d stayed out of the stu-stu-studio.
T: Drops Of Jupiter? They’re leaving drops of something else… all over the airwaves.
M: Collins sounds like Captain Beefheart in comparison.
277. Fairport Convention
T: Invented electric British folk rock and featured the twin mega talents of Richard Thompson and Sandy Denny. Five classics in 3 years (’68 to ’70), the novice should start with Liege & Lief.
M: I’ve never gotten around to investigating the back catalog, which is just further evidence of my idiocy, especially given my affection for Richard and Linda.
276. Sly & the Family Stone
T: The kings of psychedelic funk and soul. With mercurial leader Sly Stone, they made a funky, boisterous stew of soul and rock and roll… and oftne took their provocative, socially conscious mix to the top of the charts. “If You Want Me To Stay” is as good as it gets.
M: They take me higher.
275. Rickie Lee Jones
M: She treads dangerously close to being too precious, but her hipster swagger is usually welcome to my ears.
274. Steve Forbert
T: Peaked with his uniformly excellent debut Alive on Arrival, Forbert has been a career country rock foot soldier. In over his head with this placement.
M: He seems sort of slight to place here, but I can dig him in small doses.
273. Joy Division
T: Hugely influential… probably to the detriment of those who followed, there’s no denying the power and sadness of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and “She’s Lost Control”. Just keep out of reach of young children.
M: There’s a certain rudimentary brutality to their records, but they remain powerful and affecting. And their gloomy pall looms large over two generations of alt rockers.
T: They have tons of critical hosannas and rabid fans, and for the life of me I can’t figure out why.
M: They came on and my wife said “are they twelve?” And I said, “no, they’re Ween.”
271. Barbra Streisand
T: I’m a little verklempt…talk amongst yourselves.
M: Like buttah.
270. Midnight Oil
T: Fiery passion mixed with social activism, they were a beacon of mid-80’s college rock. 6’6” singer Peter Garrett’s spastic dance moves highlighted scorching live shows.
M: Diesel and Dust is one of the last albums I bought on vinyl. And I’ve never replaced it on disc. Evidence of my idiocy mounts.
269. Tony Bennett
T: The guy’s been doing it for 80 years and he’s still cutting it… a master. Appropos of nothing -isn’t weird that he and Chuck Berry are the same age?
M: He sounded indescribably good on the radio. Like the olive in the gin, the rasp at the edges cuts the richness of his voice.
268. P.J. Harvey
T: Unapologetically frank and sexy, PJ Harvey’s cathartic indie alt pop is dirty, greasy and intimate…more please.
M: Polly Jean is a powderkeg. One of the most relentlessly interesting artists going.
267. Guided by Voices
T: “Glad Girls” is the best Cheap Trick song they never wrote. You gotta trawl through dozens and dozens of GBV and Robert Pollard realeases to get the goods, so I’d recoomend Human Amusements At Hourly Rates to start. In the time it took me to write this, Pollard recorded and released two new records. Guy’s prolific.
M: Robert Pollard’s forays into the absurd (“Kicker of Elves,” anyone?) leave me cold, but when the band locks on to a song like “Teenage FBI,” they earn every last drop of the purple praise lavished on them.
266. 10,000 Maniacs
T: Their songs have not aged well, but I thoroughly enjoyed the earthy, jangly folk pop found on In My Tribe, Blind Man’s Zoo and Our Time in Eden. Natalie solo better not show up on this countdown.
M: They sounded a little like a revelation back in the day, but it all seems so quaint now.
265. Taj Mahal
T: Like a gentle summer rain , Taj Mahal’s acoustic folk blues has always been warm and comforting. There’s a lot of Taj cds out there… but you could do worse than to start with Giant Step.
M: Can’t say that I’ve spent much time with Taj, but his takes on country blues always seem stirring.
T: Michael… I’ll apologize in advance. For some reason massive in Philly, these prog rockers sang of gypsies, medeival queens and mystics. While I find Sandy Denny’s voice sublime, Annie Haslam seemed merely grating. Jackassery aside, I do have a soft spot for “Ocean Gypsy”.
M: Dear Philly,
Thanks for buying all the Renaissance records,
The rest of America.
263. Dr. John
T: All New Orleans drawl and pianist extraordinaire, the guy is Desitively Bonnaroo.
M: When he resists the temptation to be everybody’s favorite guy from New Orleans and sticks to being Dr. John, his bayou boogie stew is positively infectious.
262. The Shins
T: Influenced by a who’s who of power pop and quirky pop, the Shins seem poised for the long run. Oh Inverted World and Chutes Too Narrow are two of the best this decade.
M: My friends dig them, but I’ve failed to connect. I suppose I need to rent that movie.
261. Bob Seger
T: Before he became a car shill, Seger’s midwestern roots rock dominated the 70’s airwaves. With a handful of stone classics, Seger’s rep has taken a revisionist historical hit. But the songs endure…
M: After years of indifference, I’ve started to come around to Seger. It really is funny how the night moves.
260. Old 97’s
T: Alt-country guiding lights who gleefully picked up the torch passed on by the charred remains of Uncle Tupelo and Whiskeytown. You’d be hard pressed to find a better troika of cds over the last decade than Too Far To Care, Fight Songs and Satellite Rides.
M: I’m not sure I love ‘em this much, but the live set that came out in the past year or so comes about as close to capturing a sweaty club show as any I’ve heard.
259. Public Enemy
T: Belive the hype… one of the two greatest rap groups ever, PE had a cut and paste aural attack coupled with revolutionary rhetoric that would have collapsed in lesser hands. And let’s not forget Chuck D’s voice from the gods.
M: The production on the early tracks (“Bring the Noise,” “She Watch Channel Zero,” “Brothers Gonna Work It Out”) was stunning and it changed an entire way of thinking about making hip hop records, using sheets of agitating sound to punctuate the titanium-hard beats. And with Chuck’s righteous fury tempered by Flav’s clown act, they were the total package.
258. Sinead O’Connor
T: A favorite of the Pope and Frank Sinatra, Sinead seemed to court controversy at every turn. Two masterpieces (The Lion and the Cobra and I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got) and they she collapsed from the weight of expectation. Fragile and defiant at the same time, here’s hoping she’s got a little left in the tank.
M: The muse abandoned her fast, but on those glorious first two albums, she emerged as an artist unique and fully formed, one who helped define an age.
257. Hot Tuna
T: Too high.
M: This is the road less traveled for me, but it’s not without appeal, even if the name conjures up a wicked smell.
256. Graham Parker
T: Heat Treatment is my favorite record ever so you know I can’t be objective. But the angry young Graham had three classics in him – HT, Howlin’ Wind and the stunning Squeezing Out Sparks. Fierce.
M: Cranking out hard pub rock and razor-sharp observations and diatribes, Parker blew my mind and still does. “And lovers turned to poseurs/turn up in film exposures/just like in travel brochures/Discovering Japan.” Thank goodness Craig Finn finally picked up the mantel.
255. Dixie Chicks
T: They snuck up on me but they’re ultra slick countrypolitan version of Americana delivers the goods. They’ve got songs, they’re babes, they don’t like W… what’s not to love?
M: The best thing on contemporary commercial country radio.
254. Gordon Lightfoot
T: If this was the 885 all-time Canadian artists, this showing would be about right. But it’s not and it’s not.
M: If only he’d been terrible, I could’ve gone the easy way out with a “Gordon Lightweight” snark. But he really was pretty good, even if he’s not exactly in my wheelhouse. Warm baritone + sharp storytelling = some of the better pop folk to make it to radio.
253. Gov’t Mule
T: I gave props to Warren Haynes superb version of U2’s “One”, but this generic southern boogie just leaves me cold… and bored.
M: It’s easy to admire Warren Haynes’ dedication to his craft – he’s almost certainly the hardest-working man in show business – even if his craft doesn’t appeal to me all that directly.
252. Boz Scaggs
T: From boho blues-rocker to blue-eyed soul hitmaker, Boz is the ultimate rock and soul revue.
M: The slickest artist ever to retain his soul, Boz has left worthwhile tracks all along his long trail of a career.
251. Van Halen
T: These guys gave arena rock a good name until they ditched David Lee Roth and brought in a string of losers lowlighted by Sammy Hagar. But that early blast (1978 to 1984) is a hard rock hallmark deserving a spot much higher.
M: David Lee Roth has a single marketable skill, and that’s to be Van Halen’s front man, and it just so happens that he’s better at the job than anyone else. Those massive first six albums tower over the hard rock and heavy metal of the time, and they spawned a legion of guitar imitators who never came within a light year of Eddie’s style, which isn’t just about speed and gymnastics, but instead about hard turns, impossible swoops and melodies worthy of the best pop bands.
250. The Jam
T: Monsters in England, the Jam never rose above cult status in the U.S. – our loss. Their string of singles, each one seeming better than the last, was unprecedented by any English punk band. If Joe Strummer was the soul of English punk, Paul Weller was the voice. “Going Underground”? Gladly.
M: “Dis is da modehn wohld!” The post-punk Kinks, baldly British, crazy catchy. Grrreat band.