850 to 800
850. Christine Lavin
Michael: I know nothing about her except that she seems to like bald men, and given that I have a thick, lustrous head of dark hair, gracefully graying ever-so-slightly around the temples, how can I be expected to have time for that?
Trip: Quirky, funny New York folkie whose sillier songs seemed to have obscured some excellent writing like “Damaged Goods” and “The Moment Slipped Away”.
Michael: Their brand of buzz-heavy guitar pop always sounds good on the radio.
Trip: Supergrass is super great. Mixing classic British rock with punk sensibilities, Supergrass are the Strokes with better songs and cooler haircuts.
848. Jill Scott
Michael: Smooth, smart, sexy, funky. What’s not to like?
Trip: Gotta give it up for local hero Jill Scott. I’ve liked what I’ve heard...
Michael: Give me my Fourminutesback. The locusts come next.
Trip: I’m not sure I ever heard Nickelback before today. I expected something way more hideous… doesn’t mean it was good, just not hideous. And Nickelback, if you’re reading, feel free to use “Just not hideous” in your next marketing campaign. You’re welcome.
846. The Bodeans
Michael: My colleague is going to skewer me for this, but the Bodeans never really happened for me (hey, I was in college, I was impoverished, I could only afford so many records). I saw them open for U2 on the Joshua Tree tour. And what I remember most is that U2 came on next. I sense a CD burn coming to my mailbox.
Trip: They started out wanting to be Everlys, then decided to try and be U2. Shoulda stuck with the Everlys. The first record remains an almost perfect (“Rickshaw Riding” anyone?) pop classic. Their latest record (Resolution) was a return to form.
845. Sonia Dada
Michael: I loved her in Kiss of the Spider Woman.
Trip: In small doses, I love these guys. In larger doses, not so much. But their harmonies get me every time. They should make a record with the BoDeans.
844. Ozzy Osbourne
Michael: I was fourteen years old and in an amusement park the first time I saw an Ozzy t-shirt. Scared the bejeezus out of me. But, man, “Flying High Again” sounds great on the radio. The perfect heavy metal voice.
Trip: Though I’m sure we’ll see Ozz later with the Sabs, his solo career has been littered with some classic tunes. Kinda hard to reconcile with the doddering schlub that turned up on MTV.
843. The Kingston Trio
Michael: These songs sound simultaneously quaint and timeless. It’s small-doses stuff for me, but the doses are awfully pleasant while they last.
Trip: When I was younger I would have laughed at these guys. Now that I’m older I politely look the other way. Always dug “Tom Dooley” though.
842. Robert Randolph and the Family Band
Michael: I’m shocked these guys aren’t higher up the list. They have a devoted following, and they really are a smoking band, and a hell of a lot more fun than most of their jam band peers.
Trip: I could care less about musical virtuosity (I’m all about the song, dudes) but this guy can play. And I really dug The Word.
841. Kanye West
Michael: This guy is so impressed with himself that he doesn’t really need me to be impressed, too. I acknowledge the high level of craft, but the melodrama is a tad much for a guy like me who gets plenty from two children under six. Though I’ll always appreciate the look Mike Myers gave him on the Katrina telethon.
Trip: I could tell ya about Kanye’s beats and raps, but what do I know? I know that “Jesus Walks” is a great song no matter how you define great song. Seems to love himself a little too much like our friend T.O.
840. Melissa Ferrick
Trip: I had to look her up on allmusic.com to see who she was. I smell conspiracy… so well done you dozen (possibly half the fan club?) Ferrick Fans.
839. Dropkick Murphys
Michael: One of those bands whose name I know but whose music I don’t. From the one rollicking punk rock tune I heard, I proclaim them to be 72% as good as Rancid.
Trip: Irish hardcore punks that I’ll bet inspire massive amounts of alcohol intake. Like the Irish need a reason and… where do I sign up? And I’ll bet their live show is vicious.
838. The Modern Lovers
Trip: I know Michael will be taking this one to the wall. For a band that only made record, they sure made it count. It’s indispensable and you must own it. Perfect.
Michael: Now we’re talking! How great were they? How high the moon? How dark the night? That first album is indescribably brilliant, like a punk rock Magna Carta, the foundation for an entire civilization. It is simply not possible that there have ever been 837 artists better than this.
837. John Phillip Sousa
Michael: You remember, don’t ya? Summer nights, not a care in the world. You and your best girl slide into the backseat, you pop a little Sousa into the 8-track player, and then you march to victory.
Trip: This is not the guy from the Mamas and Papa, is it? What can I say, this was his “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”. I hope he bought a beach house with the royalties.
836. Carbon Leaf
Michael: I’d like to hear a band less ordinary.
Trip: I’m gonna hate trashing these guys because they seem like good boys but they’re kinda bland, doncha think? Beloved by soccer moms everywhere.
835. Teenage Fanclub
Trip: Oh Teenage Fanclub… how do I love thee? Great album after great album – all loaded with supersnazzy 3 minutes blasts of brilliant fuzz pop. Scotland’s greatest?
Michael: No snarking here. They’re really a first-class guitar pop band. Good to hear them.
834. The Ventures
Michael: Pure fun. The magic of rock and roll. A guitar can sound like summertime.
Trip: Even My Morning Jacket digs them, as evidenced by their blatant theft… I mean borrowing of the Hawaii Five-O riff on last year’s “Off the Record”. Book ‘em Dano!
833. Andrea Bocelli
Trip: Missed this one on the radio, but jeez, my grandma even calls him “warmed over Pavarotti”.
Michael: OK, I know just enough about Bocelli to know that XPN’s playing of an instrumental piece was damned funny. When Coltrane comes up, be sure to play the one without the saxophone.
832. John McLaughlin
Trip: I know he’s supremely gifted but I just don’t care. Hopefully Michael will extol his virtues in a manner befitting a man of his stature and acclaim. I apologize in advance for my inability to recognize his greatness.
Michael: I can’t claim that I’m all that familiar with his full canon, but McLaughlin has always impressed me as a striking guitar conceptualist on those great Miles Davis electric albums. Everyone who played on those records should make the list. Joe Zawinul will show up somewhere, right?
831. Johnny Hartman
Trip: Could I be any more jazz illiterate? It sounded good when I heard it day. Michael? Please # 830 be something punky.
Michael: What a voice. Like velvet. Lush life, indeed.
Michael: What makes me think Teenage Fanclub is really good, but that these guys are just sort of OK? There’s mystery in those notes.
Trip: Winning guitar band that’s come up through the English indie ranks. Nice hooks and a singer (James Walsh) with an engaging voice but a little generic sounding. Did I just give the bum’s rush to John McLaughlin and Johnny Hartman? The jazzbos are gonna eat me for lunch.
829. Jorma Kaukonen
Michael: I was never exposed to much Airplane or Hot Tuna, which means that Jorma’s considerable gifts have mostly escaped my notice. My loss, I suppose.
Trip: I know he’s a guitar hero but the song played today sounded like typical hippy-dippy SoCal rock. Don’t get me wrong – I like hippy-dippy SoCal rock. He’ll get his due later with the Airplane and Hot Tuna. Did he have the good sense to “just say no” to the Starship?
828. The Housemartins
Michael: Peppy + English + 3 minutes = pop song perfection.
Trip: Oh goody… finally someone I can wax rhapsodic about. The first (only) soul power pop leftist collective produced two excellent records and a clutch of magnificent singles (tops among them “Caravan of Love”) before scattering and surfacing as the Beautiful South and Fatboy Slim.
827. Martin Carthy
Michael: I had never heard of him, though it sounds like he might have taught a thing or two to Nick Drake. That would make him the Mr. Miyagi of contemporary English folk.
Trip: English folk patriarch and founding member of Steeleye Span, Martin Carthy should be better known to me than he is. I believe he’s Eliza’s dad and I really liked her “Angels and Cigarettes” record from a years back. Does that count for anything?
826. Kenny Wayne Shepherd
Michael: On this Columbus Day, we commemorate the moment when Chris Columbus ran aground and found a continent already teeming with authentic Americans. Maybe we should have a similar day to commemorate KWS’s discovery of the blues.
Trip: Blues prodigy who made his first record at age 2. While I have heard songs by him that I like (and I find his voice appealing), I prefer my blues from the source. My wife… hah!
Michael: OK, I suppose, but give me Action Figure Party.
Trip: I’ve heard these guys a few times on the radio and they ain’t my cuppa joe.
824. Les Claypool
Michael: I like the one where he wails on the bass like crazy and does the goofy lyrics in the funny voice.
Trip: Another virtuoso but plonk, plonk, glurb, glurb… make it stop.
823. Simple Minds
Trip: Jim Kerr was a solid frontman and the band made a fair grab for a piece of the U2 pie. Anybody that’s ever been married to Chrissie Hynde is OK in my book.
Michael: Remember when Chrissie Hynde married Simple Minds’ singer and changed her name to Christine Kerr? I always thought he should have changed his to Jim Pretender.
822. The Magnetic Fields
Michael: Proper. Stephin Merritt is equal parts Cole Porter and Elvis Costello, the kind of songwriter who can make your head spin through sheer cleverness. He deserves to be in the hall of fame based on 69 Love Songs alone.
Trip: An avowed chronicler of all things heartbreak, Stephin Merritt is quite the mope. 69 Love Songs is the revered classic, but I prefer his side project the Sixth’s Wasps’ Nests, where he had guest singers take over.
821. Concrete Blonde
Michael: Johnette Napolitano is a powerhouse singer. I don’t think the band is great by any stretch, but I’ll gladly slide some quarters into any jukebox that has “God is a Bullet.”
Trip: I likes me a little Concrete Blonde but I realized today they’re about a pop fly away from Linda Perry and the truly awful Four Non Blondes. Ahhh… the vagaries of pop music and what makes us like one song and despise the next.
Michael: I dig the wide open spaces. It just now strikes me that the name is an amalgam of California and Mexico. Was I the last to know?
Trip: I’m late to the Calexico party and I’ll bet I’m in the minority who likes the newer, streamlined poppier vocal songs more than their spaghetti western, mostly instrumental older stuff.
819. Peter Frampton
Michael: There’s something oddly comforting about his music. It reminds me of being a kid, which is always nice. And it makes me want one of those talk boxes to use around the house. “Doo-oo you fee-eel like Chi-nee-eese foo-ood?”
Trip: Loved him in 1976… well liked him. But his stuff sounds dated now and not a little bit lacking in stones.
818. New Riders of the Purple Sage
Michael: I have only a limited interest in all things Grateful Dead (I can enjoy it from time to time, but a little goes a long way), and so the Riders have eluded my grasp. They may be great, but I wouldn’t know.
Trip: Warmed over, countrified Dead scraps… no thanks. I do have a soft spot for “Panama Red” though.
817. The Verve
Michael: This band never got my full attention. I know the one song, and that Mick and Keith took all their money, and that’s about it. Mick is pretty ruthless about business. If those guys on that sitcom actually succeed in robbing his apartment, I hope they send something to Richard Ashcroft.
Trip: Despite getting bitch slapped by the Stones camp for (mis) appropriating a symphonic “Out of Time” for their massive hit “Bittersweet Symphony”, these guys delivered two Brit-pop classics, A Northern Soul and Urban Hymns.
816. David Grisman
Michael: My take is pretty similar to my take on artist 818. That, and my experience is that mandolin players are invariably good people.
Trip: A mandolin virtuoso probably best known for his association with Jerry Garcia, I’m assuming he’s awesome.
815. Ravi Shankar
Michael: I’ve never been much turned on by the sitar (I usually skip “Within You, Without You”), but it does have a certain hypnotic quality about it. Who am I kidding? I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about.
Trip: Excuse me. Mr. Shankar, may I have your daughter’s hand in marriage? But you can’t play at the wedding… OK?
814. Don McClean
Michael: “American Pie” may be the most famous song I don’t own. Not saying that if I don’t own it, it’s not good. Actually, yes I am. No, really, I’m not.
Trip: A minor talent who had a major hit. I remain, until the day I die, a huge unabashed fan of “American Pie” and if you’re in the car with me when it comes on – buckle up, cause I’m singing along loudly. And badly.
813. David Poe
Michael: Not a clue.
Trip: I know I’ve heard this guy on WXPN but for the life of me I couldn’t distinguish him from the plethora of earnest singer-songwriters that dot the airwaves.
812. Ralph McTell
Michael: Any relation to Blind Willie?
Trip: “Streets of London” is a classic. That’s all I got.
811. Dresden Dolls
Michael: Welcome to a recurring theme. This band is here and the Modern Lovers were number 838?!?
Trip: These Dolls seem like campy fun but top 885 of all-time? The real Dolls better have made this list or I shall be quite put out.
810. At the Drive In
Michael: I bought Relationship of Command right when it came out. I kind of admire the ferocity, but I’m really not interested in that much sustained aggression anymore. Plus my wife says “would you turn that crap off?!”
Trip: This song rocked like a mofo when I heard it on the radio but I’ll bet a steady diet of these dudes would wear thin.
809. Johnny Mathis
Michael: Didn’t he have history’s biggest selling album until Rumours or Frampton Comes Alive came along? He does convey a certain gender-neutral romanticism.
Trip: I liked hearing “Chances Are” but every time I hear Johnny Mathis it reminds of this classic exchange from Diner:
Shrievey: Alright Boogie, who’s better, Mathis or Sinatra?
808. John Fahey
Michael: I know him almost solely by rep, but I know Leo Kottke loves him, and that’s pretty good.
Trip: Hugely influential guitarist I always enjoy whenever I hear. I’ll bet my boy Dave Farrow is a big fan.
807. Peggy Lee
Michael: As I write this, they’re playing “Fever” on the radio. Holy smokes, is that a sexy song! And here I sit all alone . . .
Trip: Nice to hear the quite sexy “Fever” but I’ll always remember her for “Is That All There Is”, I believe the last record my Dad purchased.
806. Dinah Washington
Michael: The segue from “Fever” to “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby” is the most natural one I’ve heard all day, and the sexiest one I’ve heard all year. “Honey, let’s put the kids to bed early tonight . . .” (ed. – 7:12 a.m. Tuesday; yeah, that didn’t happen)
Trip: Trivia – Dinah Washington was the inspiration for Boz Scaggs “Dinah Flo” and the “Dinah Won’t You Blow Your Horn” section from “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.”
805. Crash Test Dummies
Trip: I fell under their sway on their first record The Ghosts That Haunt Me but soon singer Brad Roberts voice and overall smugness soured me on these guys. Dude deserves a pie in the face.
Michael: Ever notice how there was never a song called “We’re A Canadian Band”? Yeah, well there’s a reason.
804. Gnarls Barkley
Michael: What’s next on the countdown? Bands formed five minutes ago? We could do a lot worse, though. “Crazy” is stupid contagious.
Trip: Five years from now these guys will be remembered as fondly as Norman Greenbaum.
803. Al DiMeola
Trip: Jazz-rock fusion? Hopefully Michael has something constructive to add here, cause I got nuttin.
Michael: He plays the guitar very fast, like the jazz Yngwie Malmsteen. I never miss a chance to say “Yngwie Malmsteen.”
802. The Lovin’ Spoonful
Michael: I love how this band with the filthiest name played the sweetest pop tunes. Imagine how high they’d rank if they got credit for John Sebastian’s theme to “Welcome Back, Kotter.”
Trip: What a joyous sound these guys put together. Can I start the great Lovin’ Spoonful reclamation project of 2006 right now? And “Darling Be Home Soon” is just a stunner. I believe.
801. Lindsey Buckingham
Michael: Spectacular. Genius-level singer/songwriter/guitarist with some way out of the box ideas about production. And I love how he’s been breaking up with the same woman for thirty years.
Trip: Even if you didn’t get all gushy for the mega-million selling version of the Mac, you at least liked Lindsey’s songs… right? His solo stuff is erratic but worth the trawl.
800. The Go-Betweens
Michael: They made some of the loveliest, stateliest music around, and the melancholy in their songs only seems amplified since Grant McLennan died earlier this year.
Trip: You bet… although they’re about 750 too low. You love the Go Betweens – I know you do. If not…check them out. Today.