Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Artist number 8

Neil Young and Crazy Horse tear through "Cortez the Killer"
Happy Halloween from artist number 785

KISS rocks the epic Paul Lynde Halloween Special
Artist number 63

The Queen rocks steady.
Artist number 672

Gang of Four, "To Hell with Poverty"

Monday, October 30, 2006

Artist number 800

The Go-Betweens, "Cattle and Cane"
Artist number 108

James Brown on the TAMI show.
Artist number 106

The Replacements rip it up on SNL. For the night's second performance, click here.
Artist number 36

The Band, "Up on Cripple Creek."
Artist number 3

World's Greatest. "Loving Cup."

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Artist number 496

The kings of rock.
Artist number 427

Bill Evans and his Trio play "Waltz for Debby."
Artist number 10

Joni and the Band play "Coyote," from The Last Waltz.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

25 to 1

25. The Allman Brothers Band

T: The prototype blues rock jam band, the Allmans leave their brethren in the dust for three reasons: Duane Allman and Dicky Betts, Gregg Allman’s soulful southern drawl and most importantly, great songs.

M: These guys created the template for what a good jam band needs – ample soul and a strong sense of direction. So why have so few of their descendents been able to follow the map?

24. The Clash

T: With apologies to London Calling, the Clash’s 1976 debut is the essential punk record. Seemingly sprung forth fully formed, The Clash crystallized everything I loved about music and destroyed everything I hated about it. Joe Strummer was punk’s soul and conscience… I miss him.

M: They would be among my favorites had they released only London Calling, the most indispensable of my desert island discs. But they also gave us the disciplined fury of The Clash and the unabashedly ambitious Sandinista!, not to mention the radio-ready Combat Rock, and Give ‘Em Enough Rope, which competently kept time between the era-defining first and third albums. I love the idea of this band – fusing the music, culture and politics of the first and third worlds with a rare precision and ferocity – more than any other band I know.

23. Elvis Costello

T: Possibly the only artist (along with Bowie) to give Prince a run for his money for stylistic jumps over the last 30 years, Elvis Costello is a celebrated songwriter and an under appreciated singer. His early troika (My Aim is True, This Year’s Model, Armed Forces) started his now long career with a big bang he’s never quite equaled. But each Costello release remains an event - Elvis is King!

M: Another artist near the very top of my personal list, Elvis C. helped turn me on to the power of language while simultaneously rocking my socks off. The breadth of musical territory that he and his comrades in the Attractions were able to traverse in their initial ten-year run was stunning – from new wave-tinged pub rock to lush pop to blistering R&B to pure country. And when the Attractions couldn’t achieve all the sounds he heard in his head, Costello assembled another band and came up with the brilliant King of America.

22. Stevie Wonder

T: By age 26, Stevie Wonder had amassed dozens of top 20 hits and recorded in succession Signed, Sealed and Delivered (1970), Where I’m Coming From (1971), Music of My Mind and Talking Book (both 1972 – nice year!), Innervisions (1973), Fulfillingness’ First Finale (1974) and Songs In The Key of Life (1976).

By age 26, I had my own apartment.

M: How can the human mind conceive of a rhythm track as hot as the one on “I Wish”? And how can that not even be his best song? He could record an “I Just Called to Say I Love You” every year for the rest of his life and it wouldn’t diminish his greatness one bit.

21. Radiohead

T: I’m buying that The Bends and OK Computer are great records, but there’s a lot of stray blips and unnecessary squonks on the meandering Kid A, Amnesiac and Hail To The Thief. Along with Wilco, the most unduly over praised band of the last 10 years. But Michael promises to show me the way.

M: Their recent arty abstractions are easier to admire than enjoy, but OK Computer gives me chills, and few albums stand up to extreme volume quite like The Bends, one of the great twin-guitar assaults of our time.

20. Paul Simon

T: While I would’ve like to see the Chuck Berrys and Buddy Hollys of the world up here in the top 20, you’ll get no quibble from me on Paul Simon. One of the few 60’s survivors to remain a viable recording artist in 2006, his legacy will be the rich wellspring of classic songs and the sweet harmony with Art Garfunkel.

Teek’s picks – “American Tune” and “Mother and Child Reunion”.

M: I saw him on the Graceland tour early in 1987, and people were picketing him for breaching the cultural embargo by bringing black South African musicians to the States. What those well-meaning dopes failed to realize was that by helping to expose the world to the beautiful, graceful and deeply human music of an oppressed people, Simon was doing more to destroy a corrupt system than any embargo or boycott ever could.

19. Elvis Presley

T: Nobody changed the face of music in the 20th century more than Elvis. The Sun sessions, the Ed Sullivan appearances, the movies, the Army, his Vegas period… everything he did was iconic. He wedded country and blues and birthed rock and roll. And besides Chuck D, who doesn’t love Elvis?

M: August 16, 1977. I’m nine years old. It’s a rainy day and I’m watching a rerun of A Family Affair on WTTV from Indianapolis when it crawls across the screen that Elvis had died. I understood that this was a very big deal, even if I didn’t know just why. Years later, I get it. Watch the old black and white film, and it’s obvious. He was nothing short of electrifying and he was ground zero of a revolution. The King, indeed.

18. Johnny Cash

T: The Mount Rushmore of country music and rock and roll, Johnny Cash was one badass motherf**ker. Gifted with the most commanding baritone and cursed with a troubled soul, his long goodbye (the American series) was a fitting and well deserved sendoff.

M: In the late 1980’s, I worked a show that he and June did with Waylon Jennings and Jessie Colter. I was backstage doing some menial task when I walked around a corner and there he was, a big man with more physical presence than I’d seen before or since, leaving me completely humbled. Perhaps the most honest artist on the list, one completely incapable of artifice.

17. R.E.M.

T: These guys invented indie rock and the DIY ethic. They brought southern gothic chic (who knew it even existed), mumbled vocals and garbled lyrics to millions. Of all the 80’s bands, REM consistently made the best records. I count eight classics from Murmur through Automatic for the People. And this spot still probably belongs to Otis Redding, Ray Charles or the Everly Brothers.

M: As a high school sophomore, I picked up Rolling Stone’s 1983 critics’ poll issue and saw that an album called Murmur by a band called R.E.M. took the top spot, ahead of Thriller and Synchronicity. Understandably intrigued, I bought the album, and some weeks later, my buddy Brian (who was a bit more metallically inclined) commented “Dude, R.E.M. is all you ever listen to.” Like there’s something wrong with that?

16. David Bowie

T: Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust still rock my world, and at 15 I was convinced that he actually might be an alien. The Ziggy tour at the Tower… that left quite an impression.

M: Has any other rock artist been as consistently ahead of his time and as willing to shed his past in order to move forward? Low and Station to Station are alternates on my desert island list.

15. Eric Clapton

T: This is a lifetime achievement award… surely not for his less than inspired solo work. Since Clapton’s best work has already been recognized in this countdown, I’m throwing this spot to the Rave Ups and the Undertones… for purely personal reasons.

M: The total body of work, from the Bluesbreakers and Yardbirds up through the best of his solo output, really is stunning, and I assume that his votes reflect his full career, not “Change the World.”

14. Bob Marley and the Wailers

T: Not many can lay claim to being the undisputed champ… Marley is reggae’s undisputed champ. Lively Up Yourself!

M: I was twelve years old when Marley died, so I only came to him later, like much of the world did, through Legend, an album that instantly changed my way of thinking. To the extent that I thought of reggae at all, I found it tedious, limited by the sameness of the rhythms. Marley destroyed the barriers I had built for myself. These were great songs that could have been rendered brilliantly in any style. On the version of “No Woman, No Cry” that’s on Legend, and on the entire Live! album from which the song was originally culled, Marley communicates with an audience in a way that I’ve never heard surpassed and rarely equaled. His original catalog remains the most spiritually satisfying music I know.

13. Van Morrison

T: I may own more Van Morrison albums than any other artist on this countdown, but yet none have ever connected with me as intensely and emotionally as Born to Run, Every Picture Tells A Story, Guitar Town, Otis Blue or countless others. I think the surly one deserves this spot and a quick check of allmusic.com reveals a whopping 17 four star plus albums. So what’s my problem?

M: You’ve written “Gloria” and “Brown Eyed Girl.” What do you do next? If you’re Van Morrison, you do this: “If I ventured in the slipstream/Between the viaducts of your dream/Where immobile steel rims crack/And the ditch in the back roads stop/Could you find me?/Would you kiss-a my eyes?/To lay me down, in silence easy, to be born again.” And then time stops.

12. The Who

T: I feel more of an emotional kinship to the Who than the Beatles or Stones, and I think I can trace it back to my all-consuming obsession with Tommy and Who’s Next. What did I love - Townsend’s guitar windmills, literary lyrics and breathtaking air kicks, Daltrey’s commanding vocals and macho swagger, plus Entwhistle’s stoic bottom that enabled Keith Moon to be the lunatic, wildly inventive drummer Townsend loved to hate. The Kids Were Alright.

M: Everyone likes to talk about the rock operas and the epic bombast of their 1970s albums, but can we pause for a moment to praise the magical singles that kick-started the Who’s career? “Substitute.” “I’m a Boy.” “I Can See for Miles.” “My Generation.” Each achieves a little immortality in a three-minute span.

11. Jimi Hendrix

T: Like Marley… the undisputed champ. Is there a more iconic concert moment than Jimi at Woodstock? A better Dylan cover than “All Along the Watchtower? Every rock guitarist since Hendrix…playing for second place.

M: Not necessarily stoned, but beautiful. We’ve had forty years to study this, and no one has replicated it yet.

10. Joni Mitchell

T: She could’ve written just “Circle Game”, “A Case of You” and “River” and earned this spot. Turning personal, confessional lyrics into universal truths, there’s probably not a songwriter since (male or female) that hasn’t taken something from Joni.

M: I had this cool teacher in high school. Not one who tried to project cool, but one who didn’t give a &#@$ what you thought about him, and who actually was cool. Anyway, we’d swap music, he taught me about the Velvet Underground, yada yada. One day he’s asked the question about the one artist most indispensable to him, and he responds “Joni Mitchell.” For me, this is a big “whoah” moment, like rock tablets from the mountaintop. And so somehow, I end up with a copy of Hejira (did he recommend it? did I stumble there on my own? memory fails), and the moment I hear “Amelia” is an epiphany. So elegant, so ethereal. How did she conceive of that? More than two decades later, I still haven’t figured it out.

9. Pink Floyd

T: Based on a random sample with an error margin of +/- 75%, I have determined that I am the only resident of North America between the ages of 15 and 65 that does not own a copy of Dark Side of the Moon. Full of bloat, Floyd is the Meatloaf of prog.

M: To the extent that Pink Floyd falls within prog (and I’m not sure they do), one thing that differentiates them is an embrace of black American music. Roger Waters walks the blues on bass, Rick Wright adds a funky clavinet and jazzy chords, and the back-up singers are straight out of "Gimme Shelter." I also get very turned on by David Gilmour's guitar playing; clean, melodic, lots of space. And Waters is a deft enough writer to pull off grand concepts that would look like tenth grade composition disasters in the hands of lesser men. I’m not much for the early psychedelic trips, but, at their peak, they were monstrous.

8. Neil Young

T: Either picking back porch country rock ballads or unleashing the holy hell of Crazy Horse, Neil Young has remained a contemporary, vibrant, compelling recording artist for 40 years. Besides Dylan and Van, what other rockers can say that? My favorite Neil Young record? I’ve got about a dozen of them.

M: Perhaps our most restless rock star, Neil Young refuses to coast on his past and has no fear of exposing any part of his vision, no matter how it might confound his audience. Isn’t that the definition of true artistry?

7. Grateful Dead

T: The most original and iconic of all American bands… and all that without even a serviceable lead singer. But I like them for different reasons than you… I make the case for Grateful Dead - classic singles band. I know I’m missing the point that experiencing the Grateful Dead live is, as Beck says, “where it’s at”. But I saw them once (once!) in September 1988, and the incessant noodling and 40 minute drum solo that opened the second half confirmed what I suspected – Grateful Dead concerts would never be for me. But their take on cosmic, rural country blues contains a bushel of great songs. That’s my alternative Dead… classic singles band.

M: I have a like-hate relationship with the Dead. When they latch on to a good take on “He’s Gone” or “Fire on the Mountain,” or when I hear the original recorded grace of “Box of Rain,” it’s a rare pleasure. When they get into a jam and they can’t get out, when they attempt to rock on any level, or when anyone, anywhere plays “Unbroken Chain,” I curse the day the Warlocks met. Anyway, the band is as much an anthropological phenomenon as a musical one, and we’ll never unravel their mystery here.

6. Led Zeppelin

T: As opposed to the Dead, Led Zeppelin was the album band. Their songs belong together on those six great albums and should be heard album length. Massive, thunderous doses of crunching metal mixed with idyllic, pastoral musings that seemed veddy British, Led Zep was this teenager’s favorite monster of rock. And the one-two opening of LZ4’s “Black Dog” and “Rock and Roll”… oh yeah!

M: I feel like a Viking just thinking about them. The bruising riffs, the bone-crushing beat, the Dionysian golden banshee out front. The complete mastery of their craft and total occupation of the field. And, of course, the taking of the women. Valhalla, I am coming!

5. U2

T: For a couple of years U2 and REM were my favorite bands (until I heard the Replacements' Let It Be). U2 succumbed to rock star bloat after conquering the world in the 80’s. But before that they succeeded in making the personal universal, the mundane fantastic and Bono did his best to save the world and rock and roll. What’ve you done the last 25 years?

M: I’ve been a fan for close to 25 years, and I’ve followed them every step of the way, even through the misstep of Pop and the relatively uninspired . . . Atomic Bomb. At first, I admired the wide-eyed passion, even if it sometimes paired pretense with an almost comic lack of subtlety. But now, I admire the fact that they’ve become a professional rock and roll band. At one time, I would’ve considered that description a pejorative, but as I get older, I have a hard time finding the flaws in a band that knows how to craft songs and render them with an expertise that comes only with experience. And a big pat on the back for using their celebrity capital to help further the cause of humanity.

4. Bruce Springsteen

T: Without a doubt Bruce is my favorite rock musician… I make no apologies. I honor and respect Dylan, the Beatles, the Stones, Elvis, Chuck Berry – but you can only have one favorite. His songs are literate, passionate and joyous - and with that other worldly yowl he was the rock and roll savior I didn’t even know I needed. He was the next step in a lineage that went from Elvis to Fogerty to Bruce, continued on with Westerberg and Earle and still lives today in my current favorites Jesse Malin and the Hold Steady. His output has been all over the stylistic map – the “new Dylan” of Greetings, the channeling of Van Morrison on The Wild, The Innocent… and the ultimate statement Born to Run, which melds rock’s first 20 years and spits out something that sounds completely original. BTR was almost bettered by Darkness on the Edge of Town, where the lovable losers searching for a way out realized they weren’t going anywhere… and that realization somehow became heroic. Since Darkness Springsteen has made a few classics (Nebraska, Tunnel of Love and The Rising) but has always been consistently challenging. As a veteran of many Springsteen shows, his true genius has been delivering magical, mystical, galvanizing revival meetings masquerading as rock concerts… it’s at these shows that he cemented his # 1 rank on my list.

M: There is something that happens in the first five seconds of “Born to Run” that is difficult to explain and almost impossible to believe. The song explodes out of silence with a machine gun snare drum, announcing its presence emphatically and dramatically, joined immediately by a dense blast of piano, bass, glockenspiel (!), and most prominently, saxophone, the big horn signaling that this titanium-hard R&B is pure American music, eschewing Anglo angles for a four-square on-the-beat blast. Then comes a single electric guitar (the voice of modern rock and roll), rising above the wave of sound and delivering a battle cry, a clear, chiming, six note figure that introduces the song’s dominant motif. It is carefully calculated, yet completely thrilling, and it’s loaded with information that I’m still deciphering thirty years later. Springsteen has yet to utter a word about runaway American dreams or kids huddled on the beach in the mist, but he has already conveyed so many important things about himself as an artist. It’s the foundation of an idea that captured a cult audience and grew into a worldwide community. It’s five seconds. And the rest of his thirty-five year career lives up to the promise.

3. The Rolling Stones

T: Excepting Dylan… no one artist has made as many great records that have wormed their way into my heart. Mick and Keef… Keef and Mick. They have been able to adapt to the musical landscape and remain relevant in ways no other bands have. The Beatles may have produced the greatest records, but the Stones are the world’s greatest rock and roll band.

M: When I heard the songs on the radio, it only reinforced to me why the Stones were at the top of my list. The band moves like mercury, propelled by one of the all-time great drummers, with Mick dancing on top, tearing at words, smearing them for sound as well as meaning. The music doesn’t just rock, it swings, as Charlie’s left hand alters time and Keith leans into his Telecaster, proving that guitar godhood need have nothing to do with solos. And the other guitar player – be it Jones, Taylor or Wood – adds his own individual shading, operating in the space that the rhythm section creates. It’s blues and it’s post-blues, elemental and extra-terrestrial, primordial and apocalyptic. It is rock and roll, and rock and roll is the Rolling Stones.

2. Bob Dylan

T: The greatest American songwriter. His influence is pervasive in just about everyone else on this list. His 1962 to 1966 output should be required listening for any rock novice. He’s made great records since but nothing touches those records. They seem too good… how did he string those words together? Where did that melody come from? Omigod… that voice – possibly the greatest in all of rock for serving the song? That voice forever broke the mold of how people could sing. You’re welcome Tom Waits. Tip your hat Mr. Springsteen. I’ve pored over his lyrics, studied his records… obsessing over every detail. I still hear new ideas in 40 year old records and I’m never truly sure what he’s on about. And if you get me drunk enough, I’ll show you the one poem I ever wrote… in high school. Inspired by Dylan, I’ve not read it in at least 25 years. That’s how good Dylan is… he got me to write poetry.

M: It’s difficult to bring him into focus, this human kaleidoscope. The words swirl, sometimes directly conveying meaning, but often only implying it in hard impressionistic syllables. His disposition changes through the years, his sound changes through the years, his world changes through the years, but Dylan remains, sometimes in the shadows, sometimes in full view, and always with a gravity that can bring things into sharper relief even as the man stays elusive. People have spent years, written books, formed societies, to try to get their arms around Bob Dylan. But it misses the point. It’s not about what Dylan is as a man. It’s about what he does to us as people.

1. The Beatles

T: Way to go out on a limb. I really can’t add much to the Beatles lore. All I can say is they produced the greatest pop music the world has ever seen. They had the greatest songwriters, the greatest harmonies, the right producer and melodies that seem to have sprung forth from pop heaven. How about this... I think the Beatles are underrated. I still play Something New, Revolver, Rubber Soul, Beatles For Sale, Abbey Road, Help, Let It Be and they still thrill me – every time. And oh yeah… “In My Life” is the greatest song ever written.

M: And in the end . . . . It’s the Beatles. Of course it’s the Beatles. We weren’t going for obscurity here. The work is majestic, the influence incalculable, and the spot in the culture unique. And I don’t think there’s a thing I can tell you about them that you haven’t heard before. Good-night, sleep tight.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

49 to 26

49. John Coltrane

T: Whenever I hear Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things” I am reminded of 2 things. One…what an elegant piece of music. Two… god I know nothing about jazz.

M: Physically powerful and dexterous, intellectually rigorous, and emotionally brooding and insistent, Coltrane’s work on the tenor (and the soprano) is deadly serious stuff. The sides he cut for Atlantic and Impulse are revered (and rightly so), but it’s his sole Blue Note release (Blue Train) that I go back to most often, with Trane and an all-star cast navigating new territory as he moves from Miles Davis side man to a band leader of prodigious skill.

48. Billy Joel

T: Billy Joel 1971 to 1977 – energetic pug from the wrong side of the tracks writes hook heavy slice of life melodramas. Billy Joel 1978 to 2006 – schmaltzy hack. I’ll go to the mat for Piano Man… love that record.

M: He recorded Glass Houses. He crashes his car into other people’s houses. Isn’t there a proverb about that?

47. Ray Charles

T: Here’s Flip Wilson’s take on Ray Charles:

Christopher Columbus convinces the Spanish monarchs to fund his voyage by noting that discovering America means that he can also discover Ray Charles. Hearing this, Queen Isabella, sounding not unlike Wilson's celebrated "Geraldine," says that "Chris" can have "all the money you want, Honey--You go find Ray Charles!!" When Columbus departs from the dock, Isabella is there, testifying to one and all that "Chris gonna find Ray Charles!!"

M: Almost 840 entries in, and I’m starting to crack. They just keep coming. And now we’re tackling some true greats, artists impossible to slag and not susceptible to original praise. What am I going to say about Ray Charles in three sentences that hasn’t been said better over the past fifty years? Nothing, so I’m just going to sit back and listen.

46. Nirvana

T: For exploding barriers and getting real rock and roll back on the radio, Nirvana deserves this spot. Melding three of my favorite ingredients – raucous thunder, tremendous pop hooks and passionate, beer-stained vocals – they took punk rock to the bank. On the downside… they influenced legions of derivate, mediocre followers that gave alt-rock a bad name.

M: The first time I heard “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (when the video premiered on 120 Minutes), it left me cold. The second time, it rocked my world. It rocked everyone’s world, kicking open the door to the mainstream, allowing a flood of worthy bands to flow through. And none of those bands was better than these guys, who left a long trail of brutal beauty in their short time with us. Sharp as a razor, louder than bombs.

45. Tom Petty

T: Mixing Byrdsian folk-rock with Stones swagger, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have been the most consistent rock artist of the last 30 years. For novices, try 1979’s Damn The Torpedoes or 1989’s solo Full Moon Fever. How did I keep him out of my top 20?

M: With a crackerjack band that simultaneously channeled the Byrds, Stones and CCR, Tom Petty – a punk rock kindred spirit but by no means a punk – cut through 1970s rock bloat with concise, insistent songs that harkened back to the boy-meets-girl politics of the late 1950s and early 60s. Thirty years down the road, he has matured but not mellowed, remaining one of the great American rockers.

44. Frank Zappa

T: What can I say here… I don’t dig Zappa.

M: The eighth-grade humor doesn’t hold up at all, but when Frank plays guitar, it really is like weasels ripping your flesh.

43. Richard Thompson

T: While there’s much to recommend in Thompson’s solo work and Fairport Convention, it’s the devastating, moving Richard and Linda Thompson records that hold me in their sway. Can I get a huge huzzah for I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight, Pour Down Like Silver and Shoot Out the Lights. And…umm… dude can play.

M: I’m going to take “Richard Thompson” to mean everything he did post-Fairport, including his work with Linda, which easily trumps his true solo work. They should issue copies of Shoot Out the Lights at birth. (ed.- standard disclaimers)

42. Peter Gabriel

T: I kinda lost interest after he stopped naming his solo records after himself, but any record titled Peter Gabriel is worth checking out. 1978’s “D.I.Y”. boiled down the punk/indie/lo-fi aesthetic to two lines:

When things get so big, I don't trust them at all,
You want some control, you've got to keep it small.

M: In my high school and early collegiate days, I was a fanatic (there was a time that Security was almost certainly my favorite album ever). And though the full-fledged heat of that relationship has become a more distant admiration, I continue to recognize the power of those first five albums, even if I don’t return to them much.

41. Tom Waits

T: Am I alone in preferring the 70’s piano playing troubadour to the 80’s boho carny sound collagist? Yeah probably… but no matter which version of Waits you prefer there is an endless supply of losers, loners, barroom weirdoes and haunting melodies that make Waits the most original and boundary pushing singer-songwriter this side of Dylan.

M: Let’s get this straight – he’s a great singer. The voice may not be pretty, but he takes songs places that most mere mortals could never dream of. And his skills as a songwriter are undeniable. But it’s as a conceptualist that he’s gone from cult status to true godhead. He doesn’t just make albums; he creates worlds, full of their own languages and realities. When you put on Rain Dogs, you step out of your own life into an environment that is strange, beautiful, and only precariously connected to any place you’ve ever been.

40. Yes

T: Philly… I’ll give you Fragile (barely), but for the most part these guys brought the pain. I still wince at the memory of my buddy Tony subjecting me to Close To The Edge. You know… it’s OK for songs to end.

M: Let’s get it out of the way. I really like 90125. It’s the zenith of the CorpRock 1980s, a monument to monstrous production, slick playing and big hooks. It’s the rest of the catalog – yeah, I know, the “true Yes” – that bores me. There are moments here and there that I really like (“Roundabout” being a prime example), but many of the somnambulant instrumental passages – and anything touched by the heavy hand and humorless mind of Rick Wakeman – send me off the deep end.

39. Prince

T: Prince owned the 80’s… from Dirty Mind (1980) to Lovesexy (1988), he had a creative run that rivaled the heyday of the countdown’s top three. Since then it’s been rather patchy…anyone need a used, barely listened to copy of Come or Chaos and Disorder? Didn’t think so.

M: The human jukebox. For a span of about ten years, he could do no wrong, and the weirder he got – the bass-less funk of “When Doves Cry,” the spare falsetto bounce of “Kiss,” the faux-psychedelia of “Raspberry Beret” – the better he sounded. As a songwriter, producer, one-man band and epic guitar player he has few (if any) peers.

38. Pearl Jam

T: You know I never got Pearl Jam until Springsteen brought Eddie Vedder out to sing a couple tunes on 2004s Vote For Change finale. The band can still bludgeon a song to death, but Vedder’s voice and megawatt frontman charisma are enough to carry the day. Who’s got me covered next time they come to town?

M: I was slow to warm to them (it took me a year or so to get around to buying Ten), and they’ve never blown me away like Nirvana did, but I’m glad that a band like this can still exist – principled and adventurous and with the ability to connect on a grand scale.

37. Jackson Browne

T: An XPN wet dream (and immortalized in song by Tonio K), Jackson Browne’s first three albums are about as perfect as records get. Unfortunately his social awareness, while extremely commendable as he raised money and awareness for several worthwhile causes, resulted in preachy, stilted music. But I digress - Late For The Sky… my god what a great record.

M: Trip will say it better than me, because Browne meant more to him, but I think Late for the Sky is the best album of its kind, the absolute pinnacle of the SoCal singer-songwriter movement.

36. The Band

T: What a perfect name… The Band. It took a mostly Canadian group to distill the essence of America into three classics that inspired a generation of followers. If you don’t own Music From Big Pink, The Band and Stage Fright… I can’t help you brother.

M: Better than anyone, they captured the small beauty and mystery of America’s back roads and small town squares, while also conveying a mysticism bigger than us all.

35. James Taylor

T: The archetype singer-songwriter, James Taylor is comfort food. He’s long johns in winter, a frosty beer on a summer day, he’s Breyer’s vanilla. I wouldn’t place him in this select group, but I’m always happy to hear him on the radio. Extra credit for Carly Simon.

M: There are a lot of good songs here. A lot. But I have a hard time taking more than one at a time. I’m all for sensitive guys (I am a sensitive guy), but as I’ve discussed with my dentist, too much sensitivity can be painful.

34. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

T: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – great talents all, but is it possible several ballots read: 1. Neil Young 2. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young 3. Crosby, Stills & Nash 4. Crosby-Nash 5. Stills-Young Band 6. Stephen Stills 7. David Crosby 8. Graham Nash 9. Dallas Taylor 10. CPR? I’m thinking yes… but all these votes should have been lumped in together where they belong – with Neil Young.

M: All four members either have or will make the list, and two subsets of the group – Crosby, Stills and Nash and the Buffalo Springfield (Stills and Young) – have made it as well, bringing the total number of configurations on the countdown to seven. It’s really a testament to how lame that handful of Crosby and Nash albums must have been to keep them off the list as a duo. And no love for the Mynah Birds? Rick James gets no respect. (ed.- you know the drill by now. We’re suckers for the obvious)

33. Elton John

T: King of Pop before Michael. Excellent string of radio chartbusters.

M: The beginning of my awareness of popular music coincided with his big duck suit and the ascension of “Do Go Breaking My Heart” to the top of the charts. Well, those were the hedonistic go-go 70’s, and I suppose everyone gets a pass. And though some of the early high points (“Daniel” for instance) are a little too sticky sweet for me, some of those melodies will stand for one hundred years. I don’t think I’ll ever get “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” out of my head.

32. John Lennon

T: Beatle John… no death outside family and friends saddened me more. The rock and roll icon.

M: Every once in a while, don’t you stop to wonder what he might have done these past twenty-six years? And doesn’t it break your heart a little every time?

31. Talking Heads

T: While I prefer the minimalist, twitchy energy of Talking Heads ’77, they gave art punk a commercial figurehead. Consistently invigorating and slightly detached, the T-Heads stellar 10+ year career was a punk rock lifetime.

M: Intellectual nerds absorb Al Green and Afrobeat and recruit the guy who played organ on The Modern Lovers? Holy crap, are you kidding me? If this band didn’t already exist, I’d invent them in my dreams and I’d be wearing the Big Suit.

30. The Doors

T: My sister gave me L.A. Woman and Sgt Pepper for my 14th birthday and for that I’m forever grateful. It was like opening another world (you mean there are good songs that don’t get played on the radio?) that has now absorbed the lion’s share of my adult life. For that reason, and despite the fact that classic rock radio tried to beat the Doors and Hendrix into the ground, the Doors and L.A. Woman remain a sentimental favorite.

M: Once, Jim’s act seemed menacing. Now, it seems like a big put on, and I don’t mean that as a slight. He brought theater to the masses on the backs of songs strong enough to support his vision. Ray Manzarek’s organ remains one of the most unique sounds in all of rock and roll.

29. Bonnie Raitt

T: Classy and above reproach, I’ve never been able to fully embrace Bonnie Raitt’s music. I guess it’s because I’m not a blues guy. But her versions of “Angel From Montgomery” and “Love Has No Pride” are definitive.

M: Heresy time. I think she’s good. But I don’t think she’s anywhere near this good. Still, I think she’s better than . . .

28. Dave Matthews Band

T: I have reached the point of flabbergastation. My rock and roll heart is broken with this selection.

M: I knew this was coming. All those ants marching to the ballot box to tell us that this outfit is better than Aretha Franklin, the Ramones, Nirvana, Prince, James Brown, Frank Sinatra and the Pixies. Look, I understand the appeal. They’ve got a soprano sax player, like Kenny G, and that’s pleasant. And they’ve got a fiddler, which is nice at the holidays, because it appeals to your family members who dig the musical theater and also the ones who like a hoedown. It’s like when my wife’s grandmother told me that I’d like Branson, Missouri, because in addition to the country and western, there’s music that satisfies the young people, like Andy Williams. That’s the DMB, music so universal that it appeals to the kids from the western suburbs and the northern suburbs.

27. Steely Dan

T: Oh how I loved those first four records – sophisticated pop, great playing, and sly, cynical lyrics. The Royal Scam was the tipping point, and from Aja on out it was lite jazz snoozeville

M: Everyone’s favorite jazzy misanthropes, Becker and Fagen occupy a unique place in the pantheon. And they’re not just the only ones ever to use the word “piaster” in a song; they may be the only ones to use it in a sentence.

26. Miles Davis

T: Miles – even I know cool when it hits me in the face. And he had the greatest Grammy Award acceptance ever (1987 for Tutu) – he came to the microphone, leaned in and… said nothing. Held the Grammy up, and walked off stage. That’s cool.

M: How could one man produce the stately, traditional elegance of Relaxin’, the revolutionary grace of Kind of Blue, the celestial beauty of In A Silent Way, the churning abstract power of Bitches Brew, and the violent outer-space funk of On the Corner? Miles Davis is more responsible for expanding my thinking about what constitutes beauty in music than any other five artists combined.
69 to 50

69. Indigo Girls

T: They’re in over their head here, but the Indigos were pretty ballsy for two girls with acoustic guitars. I wouldn’t want a steady diet and lord knows they could be a little didactic, but the catalogue reveals some quality tunes.

M: Ho hum. Sure, they have some skills with a song. But shouldn’t we expect more at this stage of the list?

68. Queen

T: I still remember hearing the opening salvo of “Keep Yourself Alive” as Brian May’s guitar ping-ponged between speakers. Queen rode massive crunch, choir harmonies and Freddie Mercury’s vocal gymnastics to take over the world.

M: It takes some immense talent to do what Queen did without it coming off like overindulgent camp. And between real songwriting chops, Brian May’s blazing skill, those glorious harmonies and Freddy Mercury’s supernatural power as a singer (have you noticed that everyone who ever tried to sing a Queen song fell disastrously short), they had the talent to make it timeless.

67. Counting Crows

T: The debut’s a classic and Hard Candy is pretty darn good, but Adam Duritz seems like such a smacked ass, I’m docking the Crows 500 spots.

M: For me, it’s like counting sheep. I really loved August and Everything After until I saw the band on that tour, and they gave a performance so uninspired that it cured my affection for the album. I bet I haven’t listened to it three times since. And I’ve not heard anything in the intervening years to make me reconsider (OK, “Hangin’ Around” was pretty good).

66. Lucinda Williams

T: Her 1988 self titled release, Sweet Old World and Car Wheels on a Gravel Road are my favorite three records by any one female artist. It’s the ache in her voice, the knowing details, the desperate longing… she gets to me.

M: I saw her on the last night of her Essence tour, loose, a little reluctant to let it end, and in full control of her power. It was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Lu is the truth, a songwriter of immense skill and a singer capable of fully inhabiting her songs.

65. The Cure

T: It wasn’t until I saw ‘em live that I understood… kings of the post-punk mopes. I can’t quote you Cure chapter and verse but I can say their Staring At the Sea: The Singles is one my favorite 80’s records.

M: Robert Smith somehow managed to make it not look silly. I remember seeing the video for “In Between Days” on that show that Lisa Robinson used to host on the USA Network (what was it called?), and knowing I had to hear more.

64. Dire Straits

T: Like Chris Isaak, I’ve always considered Dire Straits a one trick pony. You only need to have one record by these guys – and that record is Making Movies, their no doubt about it classic.

M: Like the Police, Dire Straits appealed to me most before their greatest success, when they let their idiosyncrasies elevate their songs, especially on Making Movies and Love Over Gold. When Mark Knopfler made that guitar talk, made it sing, and when he took his own sweet time getting through the songs.

63. Aretha Franklin

T: The Queen of Soul… the gospel grace of her late 60’s/early 70’s Atlantic side still shines brightly, doesn’t it?

M: Talk about a lack of respect! The greatest singer we’ve known, with a string of bedrock-solid soul smashes (is there a funkier song than “Rock Steady”?), and she can’t crack the top 50? Chain, chain, chain, chain of fools.

62. Beck

T: On record a pastiche artist who can come across as a freeloading carpetbagger, Beck’s music confounds you with stops, starts and u-turns… often in the same song. At his worst – mildly interesting, at his best – adventurous sonic explorer. In concert last night… a friggin’ dynamo.

M: It would have been easy for him to follow the goof-rock template after the success of “Loser,” but then he shot off in a multitude of interesting ways, shocking a lot of folks (me included) with his endless supply of ideas.

61. Coldplay

T: Currently the second biggest band in the world (behind Radiohead), they are benignly pleasant. But it really makes you pine for a time when being the world’s second biggest band meant you were the Rolling Stones.

M: Aural Novocain. Demand more, people.

60. Stevie Ray Vaughan

T: Not being the biggest blues fan, my admiration for Stevie Ray has always been at arm’s distance. But I’d be hard pressed to name a better guitar player in the last 25 years.

M: Most guitar players rely on stock phrases and runs, constructing solos that come apart after a few bars. SRV spoke in tongues, allowing the music to pour through him endlessly and seamlessly. He also sang the blues like they were his, with ownership every much as legit as his hero Albert King (speaking of Albert, how did he miss the list?).

59. Wilco

T: From alt-country torchbearers (A.M., Being There) to Beach Boy/Big Star acolytes (Summerteeth, their career best) to critic’s darlings (the last two – which are really overpraised wannabe classics), it’s amazing that getting dropped was the best thing that ever happened to them.

M: When Jeff Tweedy was the kid bass player in Uncle Tupelo, it was impossible to fathom that he would blossom into what he has become, the genius leader of what is possibly America’s best band.

58. Janis Joplin

T: Cheap Thrills and Pearl are the cornerstones, but can I say that her desperate, vocal chord shredding voice was often just too much? I just did.

M: I don’t know much about golf, but I know that sometimes you can strike a putt hard enough to power it through the break. All too often, I think, Joplin powered through the blues, blasting through the feeling of the song with her histrionic delivery. But when she showed restraint – like on Kris’s “Me and Bobby McGee” – she demonstrated a true gift for interpretation.

57. Frank Sinatra

T: Nobody held the throne as long as Frank.

M: Still the epitome of sophisticated cool, there simply is nothing better than hearing Frank sing “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road).”

56. Santana

T: My wife and her family love Santana so I’ll give Cathy, Tommy and Jeff a shout out for this entry. Me… “Everybody’s Everything” rocks my world.

M: The career has been a bit too wildly uneven for me to count Santana as a favorite, but when locked into a Latin groove and a fluid line, Carlos can be a uniquely enjoyable player.

55. Genesis

T: I didn’t hate them during the Gabriel years, but I do remember getting quite the giggle when I discovered that “Supper’s Ready” was 23 minutes long. The Ramones first album clocks in under half an hour. Guess which one I like better?

M: When I was a kid, my best friend’s older brother duped me into believing me that Genesis was cool, prompting me to invest in the full catalog, only later to discover that “The Return of the Giant Hogweed” doubles as woman repellent.

54. Phish

T: I smell Phraud.

M: Lord knows I’ve tried. I bought the four-disc set of the Halloween show where they played Remain in Light in full (the Talking Heads tunes were good), and I spent 90 minutes taking in a late-career concert extravaganza on one my high definition channels, and my reaction is always some combination of bewilderment and boredom. You had to be there, I’m sure, but what did they ever do to make me wanna go?

53. The Beach Boys

T: Just go buy Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of the Beach Boys… it’s got just about all the Beach Boys you’ll ever need and it’s the best box set ever.

M: “Don’t Worry Baby,” “God Only Knows,” “Good Vibrations,” “Heroes and Villains,” “Surf’s Up.” You don’t need any commentary. Just list the songs.

52. The Kinks

T: The most British of the British Invasion bands, Ray Davies keen eye for detail and social commentary plus Dave Davies’ iconic guitar riffs set the template for the next 40 years of Britpop. Radio favors “You Really Got Me” and “All Day And All of the Night”, but god damn how good are “Waterloo Sunset” and “Better Things”?

M: Though I’m charmed by their arch conceptual records about English life, it’s the early singles – “You Really Got Me,” “I Need You,” “A Well Respected Man” – that make my head spin most. And, of course, “Waterloo Sunset” and “Better Things,” two of the best slabs of pop music ever reduced to tape. (ed.- really, we swear, these things are written separately and without prior knowledge).

51. Simon & Garfunkel

T: Soft rock superstars who made great records (Paul Simon is quite the songwriter, no?) and had the decency to break up before the suck settled in.

M: Art Garfunkel sure won the boyhood friend lottery, but the relationship wasn’t completely one-sided. It’s hard to imagine that Paul could have found anyone better to give voice to “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

50. Sting

T: Full disclosure: I am president of the “I Hate Sting” fan club.

M: I’m not going to pretend he doesn’t belong on the list somewhere (Nothing Like the Sun is sublime, and the other albums have their moments), but I can’t even begin to comprehend that some people – apparently a lot of people – ranked him ahead of the Police.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

99 to 70

99. Warren Zevon

T: I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead… my current mantra. Zevon’s career was pretty shaggy after Warren Zevon and Excitable Boy but his wild-eyed cynicism endures… as does that marvelous croak of a voice. The Wind was a stirring epitaph.

M: Wickedly funny, Zevon built his rep on a series of slyly sarcastic tunes (“She really worked me over good, she was a credit to her gender” remains one of my favorite lines), but the devastatingly human last will and testament The Wind – the reflection of a man confronting his own death – is the work that now defines his memory.

98. Patty Griffin

T: A little early in her career to be in the top 100, she’s about the most promising singer-songwriter going. In 10 years she may earn this spot.

M: I stopped in Vegas before the countdown and made a two-dollar wager that Patty Griffin would crack the top 100. I now have a $1,000,000 ticket to cash.

97. Ludwig Van Beethoven

T: Schroeder couldn’t be wrong.

M: My view of Beethoven is filtered through the pop-culture prisms of Saturday Night Fever (Walter Murphy’s funky “A Fifth of Beethoven”), A Clockwork Orange (“a little Ludwing Van”), Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (‘whoah”) and Schroeder’s relentless pursuit of toy piano perfection in Peanuts. This does not speak well of me.

96. The Pixies

T: Talk about dying young and leaving a good looking corpse. Their quiet/loud/quiet… or was it loud/quiet/loud provided a monstrous template for too many marginal bands that followed. Nirvana sends their thanks.

M: The hardest thing to achieve in music is true originality, yet the Pixies emerged in the mid-1980s sounding like no one else. Their searing, extreme dynamics and surrealist lyrics made for an irresistible cacophony that remains as compelling as it was at its conception.

95. John Prine

T: “There's a hole in daddy's arm where all the money goes,Jesus Christ died for nothin' I suppose.Little pitchers have big ears,Don't stop to count the years,Sweet songs never last too long on broken radios.”

“Sam Stone” from his epochal debut captured post-Vietnam America through the eyes of a desperate junkie veteran who’s not able to re-enter his prior orbit. It’s Prine’s empathy for his characters that sets him apart. Bruised Orange and The Missing Years are no slouches either.

M: Because there was no major Prine renaissance among teenagers in the 1980s, I come to his songs like museum pieces, works that were created in and for some previous time. Trip can do him far greater justice than I.

94. John Hiatt

T: A slow starter whose career peaked with the uniformly excellent trio of Bring The Family, Slow Turning and Stolen Moments, Hiatt’s keen eye for everyday detail make him an Americana favorite.

M: There aren’t that many Hiatt tunes that I love. Why is that? I’m not sure, maybe his work is just a little too straight for my tastes. But his original version of “Thing Called Love” rocks like nobody’s business. And “Have a Little Faith in Me,” of course, is about as good as it gets.

93. Carole King

T: Already established and extremely successful as a gigantic hit songwriter, no one could have been prepared for Tapestry, the godhead of singer-songwriter records.

M: The string of hits she and ex-hubby Gerry Goffin wrote for others is staggering, but her own star turn was a uniquely pivotal moment. Before, successful female recording acts had been either carefully conceived creations or supremely gifted singers. Then along came a natural woman who reached a massive audience on the sole strength of a quiver of good songs. No marketing campaign can ever top that.

92. Louis Armstrong

T: What A Wonderful World… Michael will tell you about the Armstrong’s particular genius.

M: The most important American musician ever. What more can I say?

91. Paul McCartney

T: Yep… he belongs. By the way, nobody’s happier about Heather Mills than Yoko Ono.

M: Some people wanna fill the world with silly love songs. What’s wrong with that?

90. Ryan Adams

T: Yes he’s badly in need of an editor… or at least Jon Landau. But the proof is out there on Heartbreaker, Gold and Jacksonville City Nights. Even on his lesser outings there are some incredible tracks. My prediction… the best is yet to come.

M: Heartbreaker and Gold delivered on the promise of their titles, but he’s fumbled for a consistent winner ever since. One day he’s going to resist the temptation to share his every musical thought with us, and the result is going to be a monster.

89. Lyle Lovett

T: While I prefer stripped down Lyle (“God Will”, “If I Had A Boat”) to large band Lyle, I’ve got one question? How’d he ever snag Julia Roberts?

M: Lovett brings a wry sensibility and a sense of whimsy to a style that is often all-too-serious. The result is the most charming country-inflected music of the past generation and a performer uniquely able to deliver it.

88. The Moody Blues

T: Even as a dorky 15 year old I knew “Nights in White Satin” was lame. Time has not changed my opinion.

M: A bloody snooze.

87. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

T: Rock Me Amadeus!

M: Surely you weren’t expecting any sophisticated analysis of classical music by this point.

86. The Ramones

T: Paring down rock to its essence – simple, short, loud, melodic, fast – the Ramones destroyed all that came before them. Thanks for that. Loud. Fast. Rules.

M: Before the Ramones, punk was an idea. After, it was a sound – their sound. By simply taking rock and roll back to its essence and cranking the volume, they increased the thrills exponentially.

85. The Velvet Undergound

T: Greatest band name ever… how wild was this sh*t in 1967?

M: The first two albums (the ones with John Cale), with their avant orientation and tales of extreme decadence, get name-checked the most, but it’s the third and fourth records, where Lou approaches a pastoral grace, that turn me on the most. “Some people, they like to go out dancing, and other people, they have to work,” Lou sings, as if those were two separate groups, rather than just the two sides to our personalities.

84. Fleetwood Mac

T: I’ll go over and sit with the chess club after this admission – I prefer the mega units-moving pop monolith to the blues based 60’s version. Lindsey Buckingham rules!

M: The Brit blues purists wanna talk about Peter Green and Danny Kirwan, but everybody else knows that the Mac is about Buckingham, Nicks and McVie, the three-headed songwriting/harmonizing colossus that is roundly hailed for their finely-detailed pop perfection (there’s a dissertation to be written about the acoustic guitar overdub on “Go Your Own Way”), but not given nearly enough credit for their adventurous spirit. They throw everything against the wall on Tusk – a great and greatly underappreciated record – and the vast majority sticks.

83. Willie Nelson

T: I thought he’d be higher.

M: A master songwriter and classic interpreter of others’ songs. The albums he made with Jerry Wexler during his brief run on Atlantic restored country’s cool.

82. Leonard Cohen

T: The voice is an acquired taste, the songs are not. Dig his mug on The Songs of Leonard Cohen… a dead ringer for Al Pacino.

M: Though I prefer Nick Drake’s lighter melancholic touch, Cohen can be remarkably affecting even when – especially when – he’s at his most heavy-handed, like on the epic “Famous Blue Raincoat.”

81. Tori Amos


M: She sure has rubbed that piano bench raw.

80. Ani DiFranco

T: Gotta admire her mile wide independent streak, refusal to sign with a major and continue self-releasing records, plus her in-your-face approach. As for her music… she’s kinda hot.

M: I think the overall quality of her work would improve if she’d slow down a little (see also, Adams, Ryan), but there are so many memorable tunes (“Napoleon” is a personal fave) and she’s a flat-out electrifying acoustic guitarist, a percussive powerhouse.

79. Red Hot Chili Peppers

T: Crunk punk funk.

M: Maybe it was because I remember them as drug gobbling funk goofballs, but I’ve never been able to take the serious Red Hots seriously. I thought Fishbone was going to be the band to make it big.

78. Ben Folds

T: The Elton John of the 90’s… and I mean that in a good way.

M: “Some summers in the evening after six or so, I walk on down the hill, and maybe buy a beer. I think about my friends, sometime I wish they lived out here, but they wouldn’t dig this town.” Man, I love that. And the guy has some kind of ear for melody, too.

77. B.B. King

T: I remember hearing “The Thrill is Gone” when I was a teenager and thinking it was some deep sh*t. I was right.

M: As great a guitar player as he is, B.B. King is an even greater singer, with a voice as tough and supple as any in blues. I met him once, years ago, and that thrill has never gone away.

76. Jerry Garcia

T: I was working as a cashier at the 69th St. Market, right up the street from the Tower Theatre where the Dead were playing in the mid-to-late 70’s. I had a little nametag with “Trip” on it. A Deadhead offered me five bucks for it (“cause, ya know, Jerry was “Captain Trips”). To this day I can’t believe I didn’t sell it.

M: Come on, folks. Keith Richards made a couple of nice solo records, but you don’t see me voting for him.

75. Marvin Gaye

T: The definitve soul man who left the 60’s Motown hit assembly line to create the wonderful and deeply personal What’s Going On and Let’s Get It On. Mixing the sacred and the profane with a huge helping of social consciousness, Marvin Gaye exposed the urban underbelly of the American Dream.

M: Only once in my life can I recall experiencing an anxiety attack. I immediately put on What's Going On and all was well.

74. Ella Fitzgerald

T: Listening to Ella leaves me Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered. Beee-yoo-ti-ful.

M: Her reading of Rodgers and Hart’s “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” is, hands down, one of my favorite musical moments of all time.

73. Jeff Buckley

T: His one fully realized album was a meandering, chaotic slab of semi-brilliant overreaching rock and roll. Possibly destined for greatness, his spot here owes more to leaving this mortal coil too soon than the actual music left behind.

M: Overrated? Here, for sure, but it’s hard to complain. The one full album he finished during his lifetime (Grace), impressive as it is, is not without its flaws. Still, “The Last Goodbye” and “Hallelujah” are so emotionally resonant, so sonically perfect, that it’s hard not to revere his talent.

72. The Smiths

T: Why do I think Johnny Marr and not Morrissey was the true creative spark in this band? And Morrissey’s no slouch. One of the greatest singles bands ever.

M: Their mope is the dope, and Johnny Marr was the kind of guitar hero I love best, one who serves the song and not the solo. His mind-bending layering of sound on “How Soon is Now?” makes it one of the great songs of its era.

71. The Police

T: Although they were slumming it when they aligned themselves with the punk/new wave brigade, let the record show their career evolved from the bracing rush of Outlandos d’Amour to the tasteful, smooth pop sheen of Synchronicity.

M: Like a handful of artists on the list, I found them least interesting when they were most successful. Before they completely conquered the world with Synchronicity, their marriage of third world and funk rhythms with heady melodies and vaguely punk aesthetics made for a uniquely intoxicating sound.

70. The Eagles

T: Hate ‘em if you must, those first four records are a high water of SoCal country rock. Hotel California, however, is probably most overrated record of the 70’s, if not the 20th century. It sucks.

M: The bane of my existence for much of my life, made worse by the sheer ubiquity of their music and the unctuousness of their personalities. Bland, soulless, cynical, and largely responsible for the commercial death of true country music. And in a minute, I’m gonna stop holding back . . . .

Monday, October 23, 2006

149 to 100.

149. Kate Bush

T: I admire her artistry and acknowledge some transcendent moments, but me for a little Bush goes a long way.

M: Often imitated, rarely duplicated, though it appears that spiritual descendants Tori Amos and Sarah McLachlan (another Canuck!) are going to place higher. I spent far too much time staring at the cover to Hounds of Love.

148. Joan Baez

T: First lady of folk, possessed of a crystalline soprano, her voice can be an acquired taste. But it’s one I acquired at least for 1975’s sublime Diamonds and Rust, which felt valedictorian 30 years ago.

M: Baez kill.

147. David Byrne

T: Uh-Oh.

M: On his own? No way, unless you’re going to give him huge credit for My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. On second thought, keep him here, that’s one fantastic record.

146. Joan Armatrading

T: She has flown under my radar for most of her career but that self titled record with “Down To Zero” and “Love And Affection” is an intimate classic.

M: I can’t help but think of our pal Shuggie, who spun Joanie back in his collegiate days to close the deal with his dates, because there’s nothing that turns a woman on more than a sexually ambiguous, West Indian folksinger. Show off.

145. Joe Jackson

T: Look Sharp was one of the great late 70’s debuts, and I’m the Man just about matched it. I hung in there with Beat Crazy and Jumpin’ Jive, but by Night and Day I could see the handwriting on the wall. I told him we were through and we haven’t spoken since.

M: Like the Police, he tapped into the late 70s zeitgeist without ever really being a punk, and produced a catalog rich with tuneful gems.

144. Bjork

T: I’ve tried with Bjork, but she just leaves me bjaffled.

M: I am so surprising! Many details rich in splendor! Laugh, laugh, the monkeys love it!

143. The Flaming Lips

T: Their transformation from underground art-pop wierdos to mainstream art-pop wierdos is highlighted by 1999s The Soft Bulletin, a lush, damaged masterpiece that revealed leading Lip Wayne Coyne as a gore with a heart of gold.

M: I can’t think of another band that took so long to find its stride. For the longest time, this OKC collective fumbled along as an arty, jokey alt band, before turning into master conceptualists, and a band that occupies its own field.

142. Duke Ellington

T: As Stevie said “For there’s Basie, Miller, Satchmo / And the king of all Sir Duke”.

M: Now we’re comparing apples to orangutans, sneaking a man who may be America’s finest composer in any form into a list comprised mostly of rock and rollers. If you haven’t added the Duke’s loopy take on The Nutcracker Suite onto your list of holiday traditions, you should.

141. XTC

T: There were two XTCs, the jittery, angular blasts of new wave pop that jump started their career in the late 70’s and the 80’s kings of lush, literate masterful songwriting. Both deserve a spot on this list.

M: The new wave Beatles, a band exploding with ideas and lush pop tunes.

140. Weezer

T: The American XTC… with a similarly reticent frontman.

M: Smart guy geek rock. I’m in favor.

139. Lou Reed

T: With the VU surely up ahead, Lou Reed’s decadent spin on classic rock takes no prisoners. Wildly inconsistent, his high water marks (Transformer, Rock and Roll Animal, New Sensations, New York) make his inclusion here just about right.

M: Pure rock and roll authenticity, intelligence and decadence melding together in some of the best songs of the last half-century.

138. King Crimson

T: Prog rears its ugly head once again.

M: My attitudes toward prog in general are well-documented, but I make an exception for King Crimson. Their original incarnation does little for me, but the power trio that recorded Red and the quartet behind Discipline, Beat and Three of a Perfect Pair made some of the most relentless, most interesting art music ever.

137. Patsy Cline

T: I’ve got one Patsy Cline cd called 12 Greatest Hits, and it’s friggin' awesome.

M: A little heartbreak in every word. One of our greatest stylists.

136. Buddy Holly

T: Only 22 when he died… no American rocker ever packed more greatness in 18 months than Buddy Holly.

M: Rave on! The man who made hiccups cool.

135. Aerosmith

T: Masters of boogie blues-rock on their essential first four records, Joe Perry’s guitar heroics and Steven Tyler’s Jaggerisms ruled the day. A descent into junkie hell and self parody made their phoenix like resurrection in the late 80’s all the more remarkable.

M: The band that used to get slagged as sloppy Stones seconds now stands astride all the survivors. Aside from the estimable Pump, their post rehab output has been just so-so, but it’s good they’re alive to play “Back in the Saddle” night after night.

134. Jefferson Airplane

T: More trailblazing than good, I could never really connect with the druggy excess of this proto-hippie, legendary San Francsico band. They have to shoulder the lion’s share of the blame for the Starship too. “Volunteers” was the sh*t, though.

M: I think you had to be there (and I wasn’t) to get the full effect, but a handful of these tunes stand out even through the lysergic haze.

133. George Harrison

T: I won’t begrudge anyone putting the Quiet One on their list, but a quick glance at his solo discography reveals only All Things Must Pass as essential.

M: I remember seeing a video for “Blow Away” on The Midnight Special when I was a kid and feeling an immediate connection to the quiet Beatle. One of the most mind-blowing things in all of rock: This guy was the third best songwriter in his original band.

132. Robert Johnson

T: The devil made him do it.

M: Trace this countdown back to the beginning, and you’ll find a man playing guitar at a Mississippi crossroads.

131. Aimee Mann

T: Way over her head here, Mann’s reflective, gloomy pop folk could use a laugh now and then, but Whatever and Bachelor No. 2 are aces.

M: I spent a whole summer unlocking the mysteries of Bachelor No. 2, one of the best albums of the past decade.

130. Elliott Smith

T: His Beatle-esque, lo-fi folk pop made many believers… including me. Took part in arguably the strangest Academy Awards sequence ever when Madonna introduced Smith, Trisha Yearwood and Celine Dion to each sing their Oscar nominated songs standing side by side. My heart went out to him then as it does now.

M: Unfortunately, he mimicked Nick Drake in one too many ways. A fine, fine songwriter.

129. Michael Jackson

T: He should be here solo and for the Jackson 5. Sure he’s an all-time wackjob, but Off The Wall and Thriller are transcendent rock and soul.

M: Sadly, he seems to be unable to tell the difference between a good idea and a bad one in his life (owning the Beatles’ catalog – good; Jesus juice – bad) or in his work (“Billie Jean” – good; “The Girl is Mine” – well, not). But gladly, he had more good ideas in his early twenties than most people have in a lifetime.

128. The Beastie Boys

T: The Elvis (Elvii?) of rap.

M: They came on like such snotty little jackasses that you had the feeling that their glorious debut would be the only trick in their book. But it turned out that they were brilliant little jackasses, capable of reinventing themselves at every turn.

127. Smashing Pumpkins

T: They seemed to float around the edges of my consciousness, with enough good tunes that I needed to check them out, but not enough to make me care.

M: At their best, they were explosive and showy, unapologetically brilliant. And they weren’t afraid to be excessive (see, e.g., Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness) a trait that could sink a lesser band, but only enhances the great ones.

126. Otis Redding

T: The greatest singer of the rock era.

M: One of the few things my father and I have ever agreed on is that Otis Redding was the $#!&, the most dynamic, riveting soul singer of all. Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa. Your turn.

125. Johann Sebastian Bach

T: I could see Skid Row, but not Bach solo.

M: I never kept up with him much after Skid Row.

(Ed. Note: Suffice it to say we’re classical ignoramuses and brothers in snark.)

124. Todd Rundgren

T: A Wizard, A True Star. I own nothing after 1976’s Faithful but thanks to my friend Feeney I’ve got the best of the admittedly scattershot rest.

M: Perhaps the most maddening entry on this whole list. I hate to begrudge an artist for following his own muse, but after demonstrating his brilliance at creating perfect pop confections like the ones on Something/Anything, Rundgren has spent too much of his career dabbling in self-indulgent vanity projects like computers-gone-nuts disaster of No World Order. If you’re looking for a neglected gem in the catalog, check out 1989’s Nearly Human, which mixes the best of Rundgren’s pop instincts and Philly soul heritage.

123. Madonna

T: Marriages, kids, Kabbalah, Joe Henry’s sister-in-law, the incredibly annoying fake British accent… forget ‘em all because Madonna has been the cultural yardstick of the last 25 years.

M: She’s not just current, she’s post-current, always five minutes ahead of the pack. She knows what the people want before they do.

122. Matchbox 20

T: In best Rodney Dangerfield voice “Matchbox 20? How bad were Matchbox 1 through 19? This poll gets no respect? I tell ya.”

M: Words fail. Were the Bay City Rollers ineligible?

121. Creedence Clearwater Revival

T: They were timely and political without preaching...wrapped up in absolutely perfect 3 minute songs. John Fogerty is right up there with Dylan, Robbie Robertson, Brian Wilson, Tom Waits, Springsteen and Westerberg on the short list of great American rock songwriters. In three years they had 13 top 10 singles (they rivaled the Beatles for the artistry of their A and B sides) and then band democracy, bad career decisions and a classically bad early contract sent Fogerty to the sidelines with artistic and emotional difficulties that have never fully healed. Six albums in three years and they were done. My # 4.

M: I can’t get over the contrast between the last band and this outfit, one of the best, most deceptively brilliant, bands we’ve ever known. At his peak, John Fogerty cranked out a masterpiece every nine or ten months.

120. Dar Williams

T: Dar-nit!

M: She seems like such a nice woman.

119. Green Day

T: Post grunge, Green Day brought melody back to indie rock than got a post-Nirvana boost into every suburban teenager’s discman. Snotty and proud of it, they actually made better records once they left the underground. Tre Cool.

M: I’ve never thought they were as good as everyone around me seems to believe, but the choicest nuggets – “Basket Case,” “American Idiot” – are undeniable classics.

118. Woody Guthrie

T: The Grapes of Wrath come to life, sire of the American folk tradition and Bob Dylan’s inspiration, you really need to have Dust Bowl Ballads

M: Someone really ought to carve Woody’s face into a mountain alongside Hank Williams, Robert Johnson and Louis Armstrong.

117. Patti Smith

T: Combining beat poetry with the punk rock’s raw urgency, Horses still packs an amazing wallop. And “Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine” might be the greatest opening line in all of rock and roll.

M: “Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine.” Has anyone ever opened their career on such a devastating high? And then followed it with a catalog worthy of her initial promise?

(Ed. Note: Apparently we were both smitten with that particular turn of phrase.)

116. Jimmy Buffett

T: Beach bum buffoonery.

M: The weekending stockbrokers must’ve come out en masse to vote. Affable, for sure, but seems to demand his own category.

115. Hank Williams

T: The father of country and the prototype tortured artist. It’s hard to believe that someone so young wrote songs that seem so old.

M: One of the great things about the CD versions of Hank’s early songs is that they’re copies of the best-available 78 rpm discs, making the years of wear and tear seem like part of the music.

114. White Stripes

T: A boy/girl guitar/drums duo will save rock and roll? Maybe.

M: One badass guitar player + one brilliantly crude drummer shouldn’t be able to make music so elemental, so incandescent. Johnny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shepherd treat the blues like an antiquity; the White Stripes treat it like a bottomless well of imagination.

113. Rush

T: This one’s a head scratcher… their enduring popularity totally eludes me.

M: I loved these guys when I was fifteen, which makes sense, because their space-rock silliness (2112) and fake-deep ruminations (“The Trees,” “Free Will”) aim straight for the barely-pubescent heart. Though when they shed their prog affectations and focus on rocking out on albums like Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures, they can still make me feel warm inside.

112. Nick Drake

T: Has one commercial ever enhanced anyone’s legacy and career more than Nick Drake? He supplied the blueprint for just about every mope rocker with three incredible records of morose beauty.

M: It can be almost painful to listen to Drake, and I mean that in the best possible way. The nerve endings are so exposed, the sense of melancholy so pronounced, that it makes you ache a little. But the songs are so luminous that you just can’t turn away.

111. David Gray

T: The currency of recency propels a sturdy minor leaguer into the show… not sure he’ll be able to hit the curve though.

M: Gray ain’t bad, but he’s out of his league with the Drakes, Stripes and Hanks of the world.

110. Little Feat

T: Lowell George’s Little Feat brought gigantic amounts of soul and groove to the 70’s SoCal den of narcissism. The ache and weariness of “Willin” and “Long Distance Love” are proof of George’s genius.

M: I came to this late, but I came strong. This is what a jam band ought to be, a group swimming in soul and with a potent sense of purpose. Music shouldn’t just go anywhere; it should go somewhere, and these Feat will take you there.

109. Muddy Waters

T: The Father of American Electric Blues… most of the top 10 in this countdown would city Muddy as a huge influence.

M: I once heard him described as a “force of nature,” and that nails it. The power in his voice is stunning, every bit as mythical and elemental as his name.

108. James Brown

T: I got you. I feel good. The Godfather of Soul… way-y-y-y too low.

M: There aren’t ten people who have been more responsible for shaping the sound of popular music over the past four decades. There might not be five. Hell, there might not be two. James Brown moved rhythm from the back to the fore, making the vamp – and thereby the funk – every bit as essential as words or melody. A titan.

107. Chuck Berry

T: Muddy, James Brown, Chuck Berry… you sure this isn’t the top 10? Want to hear the blueprint of rock and roll? Check out The Great Twenty-Eight, the single greatest one artist compilation ever assembled.

M: Waters, Brown and Berry? In the triple digits? We could stop the countdown now and it would be just about right.

106. The Replacements

T: What if you combined the Faces’ drunken outrageousness with Springsteen’s working class romanticism, mix in Dylan’s prodigious lyrical gifts and then add Beatle worthy melodies? You just might have the Replacements. Bursting out of the heartland with punk’s fury but aspiring to be Rod Stewart, Paul Westerberg led the finest American band of the 1980’s. My god… Let It Be, Tim, Pleased to Meet Me… these records are American classics. This is the band I wanted to be in… and I still do. (Paul… call me).

M: This is lifted straight from my first post on this blog: No band has mattered as much to me as these guys did during my collegiate years. It was the first time that my favorite band seemed more like peers than heroes. They described a world I could understand, full of loners, lovers, buddies, break-ups, alienation, alcoholic binges, good times, girls who got away, romance, regret, heartbreak, and ultimately, an unrelenting hope. And they rocked. Except when they didn’t, and then, they produced some of the prettiest songs that any group of neighborhood miscreants could hope to make. I miss them in a way that’s almost impossible to explain.

105. Cream

T: Forty years ago I’ll bet Cream would’ve rock my world. The opening riffs of “Sunshine of Your Love” signaled Clapton as god.

M: How could something so big be so agile? I could listen to “White Room” and “Badge” for eight hours straight.

104. Jack Johnson

T: By # 104, shouldn’t the countdown be suck free?

M: A buddy tells me that Johnson’s brand of impossibly lightweight acoustic beach music has been dubbed “surfolk.” I, for one, would like to surfolkate the guy.

103. Crosby, Stills and Nash

T: Their debut features three incredible talents harmonizing as one. Did they make other records?

M: The harmonies sure are pretty, but it doesn’t really take off for me until you add in Young’s songs.

102. Traffic

T: Their Rock and Roll Stew had too many cooks, making some sublime dishes (“Low Spark”, “I’m So Glad”, “Feelin’ Alright”) but often turning out half baked mush.

M: I’ve always dug “Low Spark” and a few others, but my overall response has been fairly tepid. What am I missing?

101. Sarah McLachlan

T: Is this ranking Lilith Fair?

M: Canadian chanteuse who co-opted Kate Bush’s moves, and came up with a lovely body of work, but does anyone really think of her as an all-timer?

100. Jethro Tull

T: FM radio staples with plenty to offer, it’s still hard to believe the rock audience bought a flute totin’, codpiece wearin’, bug eyed frontman. He was pretty electric, though.

M: I was five years old and listening to lots of pop 45s back when these guys were in their 33 1/3 heyday. My first real remembrance of them was when early MTV used to play a concert clip of “Aqualung” over and over again. I couldn’t quite make sense of it then. Can’t really now, either, but there’s a cool youtube clip of these guys playing with Fela Kuti, and that’s gotta count for something.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

199 to 150

199. New Order

T: Do I look like the kind of guy who’d like new wave, synthy dance pop? Good. But these guys took a cold, mechanical beat and put just enough fire in it to get a slow burn going. I’m partial to Power, Corruption & Lies and Low-Life.

M: The band that informed the underground that dancing is not only permitted, but encouraged. Phenomenal.

198. Brian Eno

T: Is there anything Eno hasn’t done? Roxy Music charter member, ace producer, ambient innovator, solo artist, technology geek…he’s been involved in many of your favorite records over the last 35 years.

M: How hard is it to tag exactly what it is that Eno does? I once saw him credited with “Enossification” on another artist’s album. He has an unparalleled ability to move the background to the fore.

197. Nanci Griffith

T: Spinning poignant tales about intimate truths, Nanci Griffith shines just as bright as her Texas contemporaries like Joe Ely, Butch Hancock, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Robert Earl Keen. (Note: Did the all the Flatlanders get shut out in the countdown?) Extra credit: what top 885 artist wrote a tribute simply titled “Nanci”.

M: She has so naturally inherited a tradition that I used to think that “It’s a Hard Life Wherever You Go” was her version of a Stephen Foster tune. Except, um, she wrote it.

196. Nat King Cole

T: A staple in my house growing up, this is real dim the lights music. I’ll assume songwriters lined up to have him sing their songs.

M: In the sixth grade, I danced with a girl to “Mona Lisa.” Life has never been the same.

195. Nina Simone

T: My exposure to her music has been limited, but what strikes me is the passion… for my money the most important ingredient in great music. Michael?

M: One of the most fearless and least orthodox artists on the list. Whether she’s giving a traditional reading to a classic like “I Loves You Porgy” or putting an indescribably modern spin on “Funkier than a Mosquito’s Tweeter,” the remarkable Nina Simone (isn’t that name perfect?) was always firmly in control.

194. Black Sabbath

T: Since no one has real proof otherwise, I’m giving Black Sabbath credit for inventing heavy metal. The monster riffs, the yowling vocals, the massive backbeat… it’s all there from the beginning. Hard to believe now post-MTV, but they made ominous, malevolent music laced with enough black magic references as to actually scare people.

M: In rock’s history, no other act has conveyed such a palpable sense of menace. “Iron Man” still scares me a little.

193. Randy Newman

T: A Tin Pan Alley craftsman, his cynical songs fisheyed the underbelly of the American dream. If all you know is “Short People”, “I Love LA” and the kiddie movie songs, you’re shortchanging yourself. The guy’s an American original.

M: Ever find yourself singing along to “Sail Away” and not being able to believe the words coming out of your mouth? That’s one of Newman’s great gifts – slyly slipping the unspeakable past you and allowing it to incubate in your brain for optimal effect.

192. Bela Fleck & the Flecktones

T: Banjo band leader that flirts with traditional bluegrass and jazz fusion? And people willingly listen? How about that?

M: Banjo fusion. Ain’t the array of music on this list great?

191. k.d. lang

T: There’s no denying her vocal prowess, but I prefer her when she’s shading rather than coloring the whole page. Sometimes less is more.

M: I’ve enjoyed her at every step, from torch n’ twang to chic chanteuse to slick pop funk (All You Can Eat is a terribly underappreciated effort). And I’ve met so many nice people named Barb and Tanya at her shows.

190. The Black Crowes

T: Hey I like the Black Crowes… but if they’re ahead of both Rod Stewart and The Faces, then it’s possible for Klaatu to place ahead of the Beatles. That first Black Crowes record still burns brightly.

M: When you expected them to make a career revolving around the Stones/Faces axis, they made a hard turn into NORML country, flying the freak flag for all who want their jams to crank them up, not bring them down.

189. Norah Jones

T: Seemingly invented in a laboratory to sell to Starbucks de-caf drinkers, think back before the radio ubiquity and dozens of wannabes. Come Away With Me was a nice little record that sounded like nothing currently happening, but I’ll bet Norah herself would be a tad embarrassed to sit here six spots ahead of Nina Simone.

M: Accidentally famous, she tapped into a need we didn’t know we had.

188. Belle and Sebastian

T: As Jack Black cracked in High Fidelity, this is “sad bastard music”. Sometimes too delicate to bear, their twee foppishness and precious songwriting are actually quite appealing. Fans of 60’s psych-pop could do worse.

M: Great scots! Purveyors of insistent, delicate melodies, their most recent effort (The Life Pursuit) muscles up the rhythms and makes for one of the 2006’s most rewarding listens.

187. Gram Parsons

T: Inventor of alt country with the Byrds on Sweetheart of the Rodeo, the ache in Parsons’ voice belied his privileged upbringing. Teaming up with Emmylou Harris, the resulting GP and Grievous Angel set an impossibly high standard for all those who followed in their wake. Indispensable.

M: Remember when that group of anthropologists traced all of humanity back to an African woman they called Eve? Meet the Eve of alt.country, the man who invented Cosmic American music.

186. Lauro Nyro

T: Initially aware of her songs via others’ hit versions, discovering Nyro’s own recordings shortly after her death was nothing less than a revelation. Think Norah Jones with some cajones and brilliant songwriting chops.

M: I’ve never failed to be impressed, but never been moved to invest.

185. Rufus Wainwright

T: First family of folk scion, his music is steeped in Broadway drama, lush orchestration and confessional, wistful lyrics. Hasn’t really created a masterwork yet, but you could do worse than his debut, where he sinks his adenoidal tenor around some drop dead gorgeous melodies.

M: His keening tenor can be tough for me to take for extended periods, but his gift for creating cabaret pop music is impressive. So why don’t we hear more of it and less of his cover of “Hallelujah?”

184. Alison Krauss

T: Crossing over from bluegrass to contemporary country hitmaker and then back again, Krauss is an engaging singer but not one I go to for an inspired listen.

M: Contemporary bluegrass queen, I wish she’d drop the restraint every once in a while.

183. Sheryl Crow

T: While Tuesday Night Music Club sounded fresh, vibrant and rootsy in 1993, since then it’s been a long, slow climb to the middle.

M: Proud alum of my alma mater (Go Mizzou!) and the homecoming grand marshal a couple of years back. I’ve always loved “My Favorite Mistake.” Kennett, MO is in the house!

182. Tracy Chapman

T: Opened the singer-songwriter floodgates back in the late 80’s. I’ve lost track of her since, but that debut was an A+…I need to dig that out tonight.

M: Remember how audacious her debut sounded back in 1988? She never scaled those heights again, but for a brief moment, she was it.

181. Steve Winwood

T: I’m sorry, but his solo work is bland MOR pop. Today we call this kinda stuff John Mayer. The things we do for love – went to a Steve Winwood concert in the late 80’s with the girlfriend’s family and couldn’t keep my eyes open.

M: This smells like lifetime achievement, which is fair. The guy really was a huge talent as a writer, singer and player, but his wanderlust has kept him from staying with any one project for long.

180. AC/DC

T: For Those About to Rock We Salute You. Single mindedly driven by the massive power chord, these guys put the rock back in rock and roll. Confession: In Angus’ honor, I wore my school uniform (complete with shorts and beanie) until age 37.

M: The Thunder from Down Under, this was one badass rock and roll band. And the thing that separated them from the pack (in addition to the Brothers Young’s massive riffage) was their funk. Phil Rudd’s swinging jackhammer two and four propelled them to highest heights and dirtiest depths, done dirt cheap.

179. Steve Earle

T: Without Steve Earle, I would never have considered listening to Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard and George Jones. Without the genre bending Guitar Town (1986), I’m sure I would have missed so much. Since hitting rock bottom in the early 90’s, he has been possibly the finest American songwriter over the last 10 years. His comeback from a severe drug addiction and a jail term have been one of the great second acts in pop music. My # 9.

M: The man who reinvented outlaw country has stared down drugs, prison and serial divorce and come out the better for it, doing what he wants, when he wants, and doing it well. Guitar Town and I Feel Alright are the acknowledged classics, but check out The Mountain – his original bluegrass masterpiece – which may be the best of the bunch.

178. Pete Seeger

T: I appreciate rather than truly enjoy his work, but I honor his tremendous influence on the last 60 years of folk music. No relation to Bob.

M: I always thought of Seeger as old-timey folk that didn’t interest me much until Bruce Springsteen turned him into a rock star.

177. The Byrds

T: Country rock godheads who melded Beatle zing and harmonies to a bedrock folk foundation and became world conquerors. This time for real – the American Beatles.

M: Imagine, you’ve got hall of famers Gene Clark, Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons all writing songs from within a band that also happens to be the preeminent interpreter of Bob Dylan’s work. It adds up to one of the richest catalogs in American rock and roll.

176. Tool

T: Who’s a bigger Tool – me for sitting through 2 songs or the knucklehead voters. Survey says….. me.

M: Metal + Prog = Way out of my strike zone.

175. Sam Cooke

T: He Sends Me. After digesting Never A Dull Moment for the 700th time and desperate to learn more about Rod Stewart’s inspiration, it was Sam Cooke’s soul perfection that opened up a treasure trove of 50’s and 60’s rock and soul that I’m still trying to digest today. I’m forever grateful.

M: He sends me.

(Ed note: I guess that one was too easy.)

174. Chicago

T: Their first two records are swinging, rollicking jazz-rock landmarks. It was a quick and sad decline into MOR balladeers. Word on the street is their next release, Chicago CCLXVII, is a return to their roots.

M: The die-hards say they were something to behold when Terry Kath was alive, but it all sounds like second-rate blue-eyed faux soul to me. And that’s only the beginning of what I’m going to feel forever.

173. Sufjan Stevens

T: As ornately pretty as mid period Beach Boys, I can’t help feeling current critics’ darling Stevens is just shy of greatness. I hear gorgeous, complex tunes… I’d like a little more soul. Next up is 5 disc box set chronicling Washington, D.C.

M: He’s impressive, but hard for me to embrace. It’s all just so self-conscious. But anyone who can work the Lincoln-Douglas debates into a song gets bonus points.

172. Nine Inch Nails

T: Taken a song at a time, I can hack the pulverizing electronic beats of this industrial megastar, but if I could sit through a whole album I’m gonna need at least Nine Inch Nails to pop my eardrums.

M: Pretty Hate Machine was industrial bubblegum, heavy machinery you could hum along to. But as the music got more sinister, it became harder to like and impossible to ignore. One of the most disturbingly entertaining acts I’ve ever seen.

171. John Mayer

T: The Mayer of Simpleton.

M: You’re not the only one who wants to scream at the top of his lungs, John.

170. Metallica

T: I dig these guys for their thing… dug it more back when it was called Black Sabbath.

M: I remember playing a mix tape that included “Sad But True” in the law review office way back when. The women on the editorial board did not rock.

169. The Temptations

T: “I Can’t Get Next to You” and “Just My Imagination” are two of my favorite songs ever… wanna see do the funky chicken – pop on “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”. I often thought if I could go back in time and see one show it would be either Elvis circa 1957 or Let It Bleed era Stones. I change my vote to the 1966 Motortown Revue – and a chance to the Supremes, the Miracles, the Four Tops and the fabulous Temptations in their prime.

M: The perfect vocal group, the Temps possessed startling range, making believers with the sweet pop of “My Girl” and the hard funk of “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.”

168. Cat Stevens

T: Tea For The Tillerman and Teaser and the Firecat are near the pinnacle of sensitive singer-songwriterdom. Yeah… they’re that good.

M: OK, so the songs are good, really good, but the delivery is so earnestly delicate that I just wanna . . . whoa, I drifted off there for a minute.

167. Roxy Music

T: Those first five records are art glam manifestos (not to be confused with 1979’s Manifesto, which is lame disco pop). Written off for dead they returned with the lush, ultimate deal closer Avalon. Mad props for the original Country Life cover, which is probably still stashed under the mattress of my teenage bed.

M: What a band! From the off-kilter art pop of Country Life and Siren to the noir make-out music on Avalon, Ferry, Manzanera and company unleashed an unprecedented suave sophistication on rock and roll.

166. John Lee Hooker

T: Tell ‘em Michael.

M: There’s so much to love about the Hook, but one of my favorite things is the absolute disregard for song structure. The chorus wouldn’t go there if anybody else were playing, but that’s where JLH wants it.

165. Lynyrd Skynyrd

T: Rebellious southern rock at its finest, this bunch of redneck miscreants fought their way from the bars of Jacksonville,FL to world domination. The magic died tragically but the legend lives… “What song is it you wanna hear?”

M: I wouldn’t mind if I never heard “Freebird” again, but the guitar lick that opens “Sweet Home Alabama” defines Southern rock. And what is that smell?

164. Depeche Mode

T: Honestly, I Just Can Get Enough.

M: My last semester in college, the guy in the apartment next door blasted “Personal Jesus” non-stop. I wanted to give him a personal ass-kicking for ruining a terrific song for me.

163. Natalie Merchant

T: All right – I conceded a grudging respect for 10,000 Maniacs, but no way Natalie gets the same latitude. Give me a little Beth Orton or Patty Griffin rather than this mush.

M: These are the days I think why would anyone vote her ahead of the Maniacs?

162. They Might Be Giants

T: At heart a singles band. I wouldn’t want a steady diet, but these guys have a few dozen worthwhile songs. Melodic nerd pop for the 12 year old in all of us.

M: Trivia time: The guy with whom I shared the “Personal Jesus” apartment (A.J. Schnack) went on to direct the TMBG documentary Gigantic. He has a little birdhouse in his soul.

161. Sublime

T: I missed their whole career and have nothing to offer.

M: It’s amazing the impact they had with such limited output, especially given that their one major release followed Brad Nowell’s death. Haven’t pulled them off the shelf in ages.

160. Oasis

T: Stormed out of the gate with two definitive Brit-Pop albums. Classic sibling rivalry (re; Kinks, Crowes, Everlys) combusted in high energy blasts of classic rock masquerading as alt rock, all topped off by Liam’s sneering vocals. In 1994-1995… the English Beatles.

M: In the first song on their first album, they declared themselves rock stars, and no one has ever doubted it.

159. Morrissey

T: He hates it when his friends become successful.

M: Morrissey – Marr = Morose

158. Roy Orbison

T: The original loner, Roy Orbison’s spooky quaver could reach operatic heights. Incredibly influential… and Springsteen certainly took notes.

M: As we climb higher and the artists (on the whole) get better, the ability to snark has all but gone out the window. I mean, it’s Roy Orbison, for goodness’ sake.

157. Pat Metheny

T: I certainly don’t know very much of his work, but what I’ve heard seems to fall mostly in the “smooth jazz” category. Music for Airports?

M: Another Kansas City local hero, Metheny’s sonic explorations can conjure up a rare beauty.

156. Melissa Etheridge

T: Out and proud, a wee bit of subtlety could do wonders for this heartland rocker. And please... could someone make it illegal to play her cover of "Refugee" on the radio?

M: Yet another KC homey (actually from just down the road in Leavenworth, KS), Etheridge’s overdone meat and potatoes are not my thing.

155. Foo Fighters

T: They craft concise, hook heavy singles but larger doses set my mind wandering. They’re about due for a greatest hits… I’ll be first in line.

M: Off the top of my head (and I’m ridiculously sick at the moment and not thinking so clearly), I can’t come up with a precedent for Dave Grohl, going from drummer in one prominent band to front man for another. Phil Collins doesn’t count; he got promoted from within.

154. Ben Harper

T: For some a reason a JamNation favorite, Harper’s warmed over bluesy folk rock leaves me cold.

M: “Burn to Shine” gets me going, but most of Harper’s modern stoner rock, well, doesn’t.

153. Bruce Cockburn

T: I’ve heard plenty of his songs that are easy enough to embrace, but his more strident efforts prove once again how difficult it is to make moving, accessible music with a message (see Browne, Jackson).

M: If I had a rocket launcher, I’d blast him off the list, or at least down a few hundred spots. It’s not that the Canadian Dylan doesn’t have skills, it’s that he’s so friggin’ earnest. It’s OK to laugh from time to time, eh?

152. Death Cab for Cutie

T: Yes, we know they’re your 16 year old niece’s favorite band. Doesn’t mean they’re not any good – check out Transatlanticism or Plans, delicate dream pop for the whole family.

M: I’ll give XPN’s audience this – they’re certainly willing to embrace the new. This band has talent, but I’m not sure they’ve put it all together yet. I think there’s a great album in there somewhere.

151. Los Lobos

T: They’re an American band…and a god damn good one. From their full length rock debut How Will the Wolf Survive up to this year’s The Town and the City, they’ve embraced rock, pop, blues, soul, trad folk, Tex-Mex and just about every other music genre. I love these guys.

M: Unassailable. One of the best, most principled, most consistent bands ever, with versatility to burn. Way, way better than, say . . .

150. Barenaked Ladies

T: See… they’re not naked and they’re not ladies. Isn’t that hysterical? If I Had $1,000,000? I wouldn’t spend a dime on these guys.

M: Leave it to the Canadians to make the thought of naked ladies unappealing. And are our neighbors to the north showing up in reverse order? I’m expecting Triumph soon.