884 - 851
884. Wu-Tang Clan
Michael: These guys really could be great in their own demented way. Maybe the most important hip-hop collective of the past decade or so, and they barely crack the list. Does not bode well for the rap.
Trip: Unfortunately my rap knowledge is limited. But I believe this group had 72 members who then all had million selling solo records. Their total group income was three times the national budget of Zambia.
883. Barry White
Michael: Barry White almost misses the list? Holy &*#@! This is BARRY WHITE, people. Yeah, I didn’t vote for him, either, so I’ve got no room to complain.
Trip: Last week my son asked me “Didn’t that guy with the deepest voice in the world die recently?” I said “Barry White?” “Yes Dad”. Although I only came to appreciate him after the fact… here’s to you, love man with the deepest voice in the world.
Michael: Makes you wonder who’d be on the 886 Greatest Artists list. Actually, I think these guys produced a handful of pretty decent tunes (“Dirty White Boy,” “Head Games”), and I’d take them in a heartbeat over CorpRock contemps like Styx and Journey.
Trip: Foreigner may not have invented the power ballad, but they perfected it. Coming along concurrently with punk’s rise, they could only suffer by comparison. And despite Lou Gramm’s vocal histrionics they still had a decent run of radio singles. And I like their first record… so there.
881. R. Kelly
Michael: Have faith, Congressman Foley, the public is forgiving, as Mr. Kelly has proven. “Trapped in the Closet,” indeed.
Trip: Silky, smooth new jack soul man whose explicit sexuality certainly got him more notice than even he wanted. A great voice. (And let’s say for the purpose of this exercise that we’ll separate the art from the artist.)
880. The Feelies
Michael: For reasons I can’t explain and fully regret, the Feelies kind of blasted past me. I’ve always enjoyed the jittery, caffeinated rhythms, but I’ve never known the band nearly well enough.
Trip: Drony, circular skittish no wave/new wave indie-pop from New York underground heroes (and yes I know they hail from NJ). Four great records but the best still remains their jittery debut which features a zippy take on the Beatles “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey.”
879. Stan Ridgway
Michael: Stan is weird, sometimes for weirdness’ sake, but he’s also weirdly pleasing. I propose a National Talk Like Stan Ridgway Day.
Trip: Spooky, western mariachi madman swing? Dude gives me the willies… hope this doesn’t preclude a Wall of Voodoo showing.
878. Boomtown Rats
Michael: Shouldn’t Sir Bob get a few extra points for saving the world? XPN played “I Don’t Like Mondays,” but “Up All Night” was always where it was at for me. Such a slinky, funky little thing. And “Lookin’ After No. 1” rocks like a cradle in a hurricane.
Trip: In retrospect, these guys have been overshadowed by Sir Bob’s humanitarian efforts. A second tier new wave band, the Rats certainly had their moments, mostly on the Springsteen influenced Tonic For the Troops and the satisfying pop-rock of The Fine Art of Surfacing. A hoot live.
877. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Michael: I’ve never gotten a grip on this band. From vaguely menacing rockers to bluesy quasi-purists. S’alright.
Trip: All atmosphere and not much in the songwriting department. They seem like posers.
Michael: Their run was brief but calamitous. Bonus points for working with Mick Jones, major deduction for Pete Doherty’s substance gobbling.
Trip: For my money, the best of the early 00’s garage rock revivalists. Two great records, a major drug problem, a juicy public feud… and they were gone. Pete Doherty is unfortunately this decade’s Johnny Thunders.
875. Bill Frisell
Michael: I really ought to know Frisell better than I do, which is not much at all. I have one of his albums in my queue at yourmusic.com. Does that count for anything?
Trip: I’ve heard a few collaborations (with Elvis Costello and Marianne Faithful) that I dig, but I really don’t know much of his solo work. I’m beginning to realize this little exercise will point out how little I actually know.
874. Hoodoo Gurus
Michael: I have this fantasy that one day I’m gonna open my garage door to find these guys inside blasting away. I may go check right now.
Trip: Be still my beating heart! The Hoodoos were among the best of the early-mid 80’s college rock boom. Equal parts rock cavemen and master tunesmiths, there’s plenty to love on their first three records.
873. Cesaria Evora
Michael: Our buddy Blue says he loves her on Desperate Housewives. I don’t know her catalog well, but there’s no disputing that she has a lovely voice. It would be easy to become obsessive about her.
Trip: I should lie and write an excessively fawning take on this revered world music diva. Truth is… I wouldn’t know her songs if they sat next to me on the bus.
872. Animal Liberation Orchestra
Michael: Bland on the run.
Trip: I don’t like their name, I don’t like the one song I’ve heard (“Barbeque”) and I’m guessing I wouldn’t like ‘em personally. And I really have a hard time believing one person (much less a dozen) had these dudes as all-time favorite.
871. Jesse Colin Young
Michael: I’m not sure I’d know a JCY tune if it ran over me in a car, and I think I may have actually played drums in the Youngbloods for a while. A monument to my ignorance.
Trip: Lightweight singer-songwriter best known for the hippie anthem “Get Together” by the Youngbloods. A patchouli snooze.
870. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
Michael: A scorching little combo, full-throttle modern rock with a firm grasp of third world rhythms. Not many people today can write, sing and play any better than Mr. Leo.
Trip: Logical successor to Billy Bragg’s agit-pop, Leo writes smart, crisp punk rock songs. While his furious yelp can sometimes grate, you could do worse than to check out his twin towers Tyranny of Distance and Hearts of Oak.
869. Shemekia Copeland
Michael: Pleasant and perfunctory blues rock. Big voice.
Trip: A blues shouter who made an impressive debut at 19 (Turn the Heat Up!), mostly I hear faint echoes of those who came before – Etta James and Koko Taylor.
868. James Gang
Michael: I’m of an age (just a touch under 40) that means that these guys have always just sort of been there – part of the environment for sure, but easily ignored. And I’ve always had some issues with Joe Walsh (I mean, it’s been a lifelong rolling party, Joe, but the Eagles? How can I forgive that?). Still, I found my ass spontaneously shaking during the break in “Funk 49.”
Trip: Cleveland’s greatest power trio? Great rock and roll from mid-America delivers guitar hero Joe Walsh. “Funk # 49” and “Walk Away” are essential.
867. Buckwheat Zydeco
Michael: I’ve never been more than a passive fan of zydeco (both the form and this artist), but there’s no denying its infectiousness. Always makes my ears perk up a little.
Trip: Arguably zydeco’s most popular performer, Buckwheat Zydeco is best experienced in concert. Does this mean no Boozoo?
866. Mighty Mighty Bosstones
Michael: Mighty mighty boring. Oh, I kid. But can Smash Mouth be far behind?
Trip: I love “The Impression That I Get”! I’m sorry but I believe that’s all I’m capable of saying about these guys.
865. Marc Broussard
Michael: It’d be a stretch to call me a fan (I don’t own a note, and I know only the one song), but I do find myself singing “this Greyhound is Delta bound, mama" from time to time. And I’ve never been on a Greyhound or in the Delta.
Trip: A husky voiced Louisiana native whose moderate songwriting skills have been able to muster up a sizable, loyal following. Sounds like he’s trying too hard.
864. Kim Richey
Michael: Is she the skinny white girl from the reality show? Forgive me, but her career has managed to pass me by.
Trip: Superb honey voiced country folk-pop artist initially embraced by the Nashville countrypolitan scene, then cast aside. Has made consistently winning records but her self titled debut remains the one to beat.
Michael: “One Step Beyond” came on and I immediately broke out into a smile. For a short while, these guys were pretty fantastic (in his book Rip it up and Start Again, Simon Reynolds argues that these blokes and the other new wave-era ska revivalists were better than the originals), and the influence on a whole slew of late 1990s bands is undeniable. I can’t imagine that artist 866 would be here without them.
Trip: Ska revival frat boys , Madness were a huge English phenomenon whose success did not translate to the states. Their first record, One Step Beyond, is indispensable.
862. Notorious B.I.G.
Michael: Hot damn, his tracks bounce.
Trip: Probably best known for his feud with Tupac which resulted in both leaving this mortal coil violently. A shame.
861. Lionel Richie
Michael: Didn’t expect it, never would have voted for it, but I danced a little during “All Night Long.” Not sure where that came from. Too bad they didn’t play the one where the blind girl sculpts his enormous head.
Trip: No doubt his Commodores’ output will stand the test of time, but his solo records were dreck then and sound worse now. Although, without Lionel Richie, we would have been denied the Buckwheat classic “Unce. Tice. Fee Times a Mady.”
860. The Blasters
Michael: These guys ought to be right in my wheelhouse, but my response has always been lukewarm. They may be even more traditional than the objects of their homage. But I’m glad there are bands like this helping to keep bars in business from coast to coast.
Trip: One of the great American bands of the last 25 years, the Blasters emerged out the late 70’s LA punk scene. With classic sibling rivalry fueling their songs, ace songwriter Dave Alvin used math-geek singer Phil Alvin’s vocal fireworks to maximum explosiveness. These guys should be canonized.
859. Luciano Pavarotti
Michael: I’m no more qualified to comment on opera than I am to give a primer on brain surgery, but the power of his voice really is remarkable.
Trip: I had nice little tribute here on my notepad but I think the master ate it.
858. Chris Rea
Michael: His songs sound like they were played by butterflies with gossamer guitars. Holy crap, would that be fun to see live!
Trip: Everything I’ve heard by Mr. Rea has not occasioned me to want to hear more. That includes “Fool (If You Think It’s Over).”
857. Throwing Muses
Michael: Seems that I was listening to every band in TM’s circle during their lifespan, but not much to them. Lots of people I know, love and respect think they’re great, so I’m sure they are.
Trip: One of the nearly great “underheard” 80’s college rock bands. Kristin Hersh’s songwriting could be maddeningly inconsistent and tough listening. I always gravitated to the slightly more accessible Belly and the Breeders.
Michael: A minor band who confected some major ear candy. I thought the first album (Great Divide) was grossly underappreciated, so why haven’t I loaded it onto iTunes?
Trip: Semisonic ringleader Dan Wilson writes clean, straightforward pop songs, a throwback o Brill Building tunesmithery and craftsmanship. With an above average voice, Wilson was able to move Semisonic out of the power pop ghetto and onto the radio. Well done sir.
855. God Street Wine
Michael: I got nothing. Trip? Trip?
Trip: Jam band wank. No thank you.
854. Scott Walker
Michael: I know this guy has a god-like rep among a sizeable devoted cult, but most of his work has escaped my notice. Still, the tune that XPN played (“Cossacks Are”) had a spooky Nick Cave vibe that made me willing to try more.
Trip: Critically hailed genius… I just don’t see it. I’ve only heard a bit of his overall canon, but it sounds overblown and self-important. Set the blueprint for later mopers Morrissey and Stephin Merritt.
853. The Roches
Michael: Trip can speak about them much more eloquently than I can, so I’ll let him.
Trip: Bohemian New York folkies whose gorgeous harmonies could only come from sisters. Should be higher on the list based solely on their stunning, five star self titled debut. One of my favorite records ever.
852. Mahalia Jackson
Michael: Like there’s something I could say about Mahalia Jackson that hasn’t been said better somewhere before . . .
Trip: Supposedly one of the all-time gospel greats. Since my gospel smarts are slightly less than my rap acumen. I’ll just say I really enjoyed the song that was played – “Didn’t It Rain.”
851. Jurassic 5
Michael: When I think to myself “which artist is eight places better than Pavarotti?” the answer is inevitably “Jurassic 5.”
Trip: Their music may have some merit, but aligning yourself with Dave Matthews immediately puts you on my “Do Not Listen” list.