749 to 700
749. Robbie Robertson
T: As a songwriter and guitarist, I bow down. His first cd is pretty cool. But the man can’t sing.
M: I got the chronology all wrong. Robbie’s first solo disc came out when I was 19, before I had developed any devotion to the Band, and I loved it. I discovered the Band through him. Not everything he’s done turns me on, but he’s undeniably a titan.
T: Love “I Got a Line on You” but the rest of it…hippie fluff?
M: I never knew this band at all, but I knew the names Randy California and Jay Ferguson. Ferguson’s “Shakedown Cruise” made us all giggle as kids, as we misheard the line “you can lick the decks.” I think he wanted us to mishear it.
747. The Minutemen
T: I’ve tried… lord knows I’ve tried. I think I understand what made them great but I just can’t get into them. Forty lashes?
M: Who better at 747 than a giant mass of machinery flying at obscene speeds? All these years later, these guys still sound weird. Really, who else has made an album that sounds anything like Double Nickels? They got over on pure conviction.
746. Karla Bonoff
T: I like the Bonoff songs I’ve heard but not enough to really care.
M: I’m stupid. I’m always thinking that she was the one who Robby Benson married. But that was Karla DeVito.
T: Can not. Sorry Michael.
M: Trip and I are usually in sync, but I’m betting we have a hard departure here. I’m generally not much for prog or epic song lengths, but Can makes me flip. The polyrhythmic glory is much akin to the African music I love, and the entire effect is hypnotic. I don’t want it all the time, but sometimes I don’t want anything else.
744. Jane Siberry
T: In small doses… mesmerizing. Larger doses… a tad annoying.
M: I’ve known her music to some degree for twenty years or so, but never paid much attention.
743. Ellis Paul
T: Oh god… he’s probably really good but I’ve never heard him. Les Paul’s son?
M: What is it with the 700s? A bunch of names I know but artists I really don’t. Maybe if I’d lived in Philly and grown up with XPN, it’d be different.
742. Johannes Brahms
T: I can’t believe they played “Sympphony # 3 in F, OP:90 III Pomo Allogetto”, I would have played “Sonata for Cello & Piano No. 2 in F Major, Op. 99”. But that’s just me.
M: I know just enough about classical music to make myself sound stupid at parties. It sure sounded lovely on the radio, though.
741. Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
T: Alt-country pioneers with some ace recordings. They always give me a lift. Worth revisiting.
M: In retrospect, these guys seem like giants, not so much as artists but as guardians of a tradition. If you think country music is about leggy blondes in glossy videos, check these guys out. They chose the power of the music over appeal to the masses.
740. Paul Westerberg
T: While his solo career is a far cry from the Mat’s heyday, there are enough gems to keep you coming back for more… although it’s been diminishing returns since 14 Songs. And I love “Dyslexic Heart”.
M: Paul feels like family to me, a key figure in my life. And though there have been plenty of missteps, he has produced a handful of solo moments that can remind you that he was once without peer.
739. Dizzy Gillespie
T: My jazz knowledge is shockingly minimal. I hope Michael steps up to the plate here.
M: Fairly late in his life, Dizzy played a show at my college, booked by a committee that I oversaw. When word trickled that several committee members had gone back to Dizzy’s hotel room and gotten baked with one of jazz’s great icons, I just pretended I didn’t hear. How could I begrudge anyone that experience?
738. Def Leppard
T: My brother’s a fan… hard rock lite with big choruses. Yeah I sing along with “Pour Some Sugar on Me”… every time.
M: Quality pop music at extreme volume. “Photograph” is a scorcher.
737. Weird Al Yankovic
T: Oh please…
M: Sure, why the hell not?
736. Trey Anastasio
T: I actually like Trey’s solo stuff much better than Phish… and I think his solo stuff is pretty lame.
M: I’m not at all a fan of the band that made him famous, but I think TA’s solo work has been pretty good, especially about half of his self-titled effort.
735. Tim Buckley
T: “Morning Glory”… beautiful. Can somebody make me a Tim Buckley mix? I think I need one.
M: I’m not nearly as conversant with his catalog as I ought to be or I’d like to be. My curiosity has always seemed too morbid.
734. Count Basie
T: I’m so happy I’m doing this with Michael.
M: This guy was a giant everywhere, but nowhere more so than my hometown, where you can stroll down a six-block stretch of Vine and listen for the echoes of hundreds of nights of hard-swinging revelry.
733. Johnny Winter
T: Great guitar player but his voice…like fingernails on a blackboard.
M: I’ve never paid that much attention to his own career, but the jumpstart he gave to Muddy Waters late in his life qualifies him for a certain sainthood.
T: If Beyonce was my girlfriend, I’d retire too.
M: The dude pretty much rules the world.
731. The Mamas and the Papas
T: Has anyone ever crystallized the laid-back insouciance of Southern California better than these guys?
M: They really did make a boatload of pretty perfect pop songs.
730. Josh Joplin
T: Are you sure they didn’t misread votes that were supposed to go to Scott Joplin?
M: All these contemporary troubadours to try to keep track of. Doesn’t anyone form bands anymore?
729. Marc Cohn
T: Very earnest… very uninteresting. Hope he’s completely recovered.
M: His wife, Elizabeth Vargas, is an alum of my alma mater. That’s the most interesting thing I could think to say about him.
T: True story… my brother was in Dion’s touring band for a spell. A string of hits that should be standard issue for all music fans. And a heckuva guy.
M: The genuine article. An undervalued pioneer.
727. John Eddie
T: I’m going to the mat for John Eddie. Not that he’s ever captured his best on record, but one of my favorite bar bands. Ever. Viva the London Victory Club!
M: I know he’s a local hero there. I bet a John Eddie show in a little bar is a big time.
726. David Crosby
T: I recently posed the question to my bud who worships all things SoCal rock – what makes David Crosby so great? Apparently it was his musical vision and voracious appetite for… well, many things. His appeal eludes me.
M: I’m not sure what it is, but I’ve always found Crosby pretty tough to take. I’d like Déjà Vu a lot better without “Almost Cut My Hair.”
T: My brother and I pooled our snow shoveling money to buy Steppenwolf Live… I’ve never regretted it. Heavy Metal Thunder!
M: I’ve always loved the posture, a credible measure of menace cocooned in some solid songs.
724. Imogen Heap
T: She was gut-bustingly funny with Sid Ceaser… what’s she doing on this list?
M: [in cold robotic voice] What the hell is going on?
T: I read great stuff about these guys but I don’t know enough to comment.
M: I think their reach often exceeds their grasp, but their grasp is still pretty potent, even if some songs suffer under the weight of atmospherics. Listen to “There Goes the Fear” from The Last Broadcast. If that song doesn’t stir you, they’re not your band.
722. The Black Keys
T: They create quite a racket and I love them for it… but I’d like to hear better songs.
M: Along with the White Stripes and a rejuvenated Bob Dylan, the Keys prove that the blues is a thriving, vibrant, renewable form, not some historical relic.
721. Sarah Harmer
T: Please help me crawl out from the miasma of recent vintage delicate singer-songwriters. Please…
M: I have one of her albums around here somewhere. Tasteful, well-constructed songs. Not something to obsess over, but not a bad way to spend forty minutes, either.
720. Rodney Crowell
T: Made his bones as bandleader and gifted songwriter and then exploded with a critical and commercial smash Diamonds and Dirt. Loses his way sometimes with barroom rock and political screeds.
M: An ace songwriter, a Nashville survivor, and a principled follower of his own muse. And he seems like a helluva nice guy, too.
719. Ten Years After
T: I know one song, it was played. God bless ‘em. Actually two songs - didn't they do "I'm Going Home" at Woodstock?
M: I really don’t know them beyond “I’d Love to Change the World,” which I find oddly affecting.
718. Frederic Chopin
T: How can I argue this selection? In the words of Mr. Pap “Huzzah!”
M: He’s so far out of my territory that it would be foolish to offer an opinion. Though sometimes greatness crosses over from the realm of opinion to fact, and it’s pretty clear that he fits that bill.
717. Yo-Yo Ma
T: I can only think of Kramer trying to get Joe DiMaggio’s attention in Dinky Donuts.
M: See Chopin, Frederic
716. Sondre Lerche
T: Isn’t she Clint Eastwood’s long-time girlfriend? I didn’t even know she could sing.
M: I know his name, but not his game.
715. Bob Weir
T: I was truly hoping this was the Dead… 715 would have been about right.
M: Is Pigpen gonna make it, too?
714. Mel Torme
T: The Velvet Fog… not sure what that means but I think it’s complimentary.
M: The Velvet Fog. How can you not like Mel?
713. Everything But the Girl
T: I love these guys. Acoustic is a constant companion. I owe Dave and Pat for this discovery.
M: I’ve had a schoolgirl crush on Tracy Thorn’s voice for a long time. This band followed an interesting arc and made some first-rate music all along the way. Walking Wounded is a tremendous LP.
712. The Guess Who
T: If I just flat out love these guys, it’s no longer a guilty pleasure… right? I forget what Lester Bangs said about ‘em in Almost Famous, but he was right on. And I shall never forgive Lenny Kravitz.
M: Actually, I kind of liked their very earliest incarnation (now all but forgotten) when they played shoe-leather tough garage rock. After that, not so much.
711. Me’Shell N’DegeoCello
T: Cool name.
M: Though she’s run off the rails a bit lately, early on (especially on the sublime Peace Beyond Passion) she showered sparks in a striking brew of alternative soul. Her bracing take on Bill Withers’ “Who is He (and What Does He Mean to You)” takes a great song and elevates it with another level of psycho-sexual drama.
710. Chris Whitley
T: I was late to this guy. Living With the Law is essential… as is Peter’s mix. Gone too soon.
M: It’s hard not to be impressed with a guy who approached music with such personal ferocity. And his willingness to lose his audience while following his instincts displayed a rare artistic bravery.
709. Professor Longhair
T: Music this joyous cannot be critiqued, only enjoyed.
M: How do you begin to estimate the Professor’s influence? He was a crucible in the formation of a uniquely American music.
T: The bland-o-meter just broke.
707. Madeleine Peyroux
T: Not my cuppa… but I enjoy her in small doses. Really dig the Dylan cover she did.
M: She seems to have adopted someone else’s style more than carved one out for herself, but she makes for decent atmosphere.
706. Buena Vista Social Club
T: What… I’m gonna slam these legends? No way… true masters.
M: Sure, their stature was elevated by the film, but this is buoyant, life-affirming stuff.
705. Frank Black
T: His solo work has escaped me with the exception of Teenager of the Year, a recent discovery. Thanks ski and blue.
M: Chemistry is such a mysterious part of music. On his own, I find Mr. Black to unremarkable. But backed by Joey, David and Kim, he’s simply unstoppable.
704. Black-Eyed Peas
T: Man have these had a great run of singles… I’m happy to see them on the countdown. “My Humps”… my goodness.
M: There’s a line between big, dumb fun (“Hey, Mama”) and just big and dumb (“My Humps”) and this collective straddles it with little discretion.
703. Marian Anderson
T: Oh please Michael have something informative to say. (Ed. Note: we don’t know anything about anything.)
M: She seems like a pretty fascinating story, but I don’t know her at all. If you have an informed opinion of her, leave us a comment.
702. Dick Dale
T: I only know the song from “Pulp Fiction” and it was used perfectly.
M: How does a thirty year old surf guitar freak-out become the perfect theme song for a movie about low-grade gangsters? I don’t know, either, but I’m glad it led to a rediscovery of dangerous Dick.
701. The Nields
T: There are sisters in this group. What else do you want from me?
M: I got no clue, but they obviously have a following.
700. George Strait
T: Just logged his 453rd top 10 country hit… almost single handedly validated modern country.
M: The king of the new traditionalists, Strait has made a career of producing elegantly commercial country music that doesn’t pander for its audience.