Tuesday, September 4, 2012

W is for Weather Report

Scott Walker - Scott 3 (1969)
One of my favorite moments from my first wedding was my friend blasting Scott Walker in his car by himself in the hotel parking lot. I guess I should have taken that as a bad sign.

Weather Report - Black Market (1976)
Groove like uranium
When you're a kid listening to cassettes, liner notes aren't always much help. I bought the cheap-looking white and red Columbia tape of this one, saying to myself as I rode my bike home, "Cool, this is the one with Jaco and Chester Thompson..." I was right about that, sort of.
Barely a teenager, the idea that different guys might play on different songs on the same album wasn't exactly familiar to me. So when I popped this one in and got my mind completely blown by the opening song, "Black Market," I naturally imagined Messrs Pastorius and Thompson steering the ship. No big deal, except that we're talking about one of the heaviest grooves ever waxed, period. Waxed by Alphonso Johnson and the insane Narada Michael Walden, not Jaco and Chester. Imagine going through your formative years thinking Jimmy Page sang "Black Dog." That's what I was up against as a teenager.

Ween - The Mollusk (1997)
Maybe not the best one (or maybe it is), but certainly my favorite to listen to. They nail British prog & folk to the wall like the Edict of Nantes, demanding the right to respectfully issue musical grievances to the pretentious.

Gillian Welch - Time (The Revelator) (2001)
This one grabs and doesn't let go. More than enough beauty to keep you from hanging yourself.

The White Stripes - The White Stripes (1999)
I dismissed these two until I actually listened to their records. Now I dismiss those that still dismiss these two.

Chris Whitley - Dirt Floor (1998)
I've already talked about this one in the context of "bargain bin" finds, which is a little insulting to the power of the recording itself.

The Who - Tommy (1969)
I could easily be writing about any of the first eight Who albums here, but I'm gonna stick with the juicy middle of the Moon era. Tommy still captures the lads in their discovery period, yet reaps the rewards of experience in instrumental prowess and studio chops. Plus, the '96 remaster is insanely good.

The Who - Live at Leeds (1970)
Pretty tough to top this one as a live document. I used to ramble about the Allmans' Fillmore East spanning the entire expanse of American popular music in the 20th century (except showtunes and doo-wop, maybe?), but Live at Leeds hints at genres uninvented in its time. I've also rambled about this being the best Who record, period.
Speaking of uninvented genres, I still prefer the brutal original to the awesome remastered repackaged version. Then again, I also prefer the crappy original of Who By Numbers to the far superior remaster, so don't listen to me. 

The Who - Who's Next (1971)
When I'm not rambling (whatever that means), I'll tell you that this is the best Who record, period. The innocence of Tommy is long gone (after only two years!), replaced by sheer mastery and a dark feeling that's hard to describe. Townshend's all-consuming frustration with the sprawling Lifehouse project(s)? Mounting equipment/rehab expenses? Anyway, this HAS to be one of the five best classic rock records.

Hank Williams - 40 Greatest Hits (1978)
Hey, who cares if it's just a "collection?!" The man was a singles machine, so let's hear 'em!
About twenty years ago (!) I put both discs of this set and my Ray & Pete CD in my changer, and taped a shuffled mix of the three. I thought it was utter genius, but the other two people driving around the country in a van with me didn't exactly share my lust for depravity.

Lucinda Williams - Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (1998)
I was right in the middle of a multi-layered personal disaster when this miraculous record came out in the summer of '98. To be precise, I was pulling myself out of the first pile of wreckage and a few months away from being completely blindsided by the second phase of the disaster. By the middle of '99, I was finally heading in the right direction and only months away from getting my ass kicked on a daily basis... and loving every second of it.
Car Wheels got me from point A to point F and back again. She knew exactly what I'd lost, exactly where I ended up, and exactly what I was trying to find. Thank you, Miss Williams.

Wire - Pink Flag (1977)
Wow. That's all I can say about this one.

Stevie Wonder - Innervisions (1973)
I'll put Talking Book right beside this one, but Innervisions gets more plays.

Wu-Tang Clan - Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers (1993)
I used to love buying rap records on Thayer St. in early '90s Providence, RI. I could count on (1) finding a cheap promo of what I was looking for (because nobody ever bought rap records there), and (2) being stared at like a had a screwdriver sticking out of my forehead (especially by record clerks I knew!).It took me a month or two to fully dig this record; the songs I loved immediately were "Can It Be..." and "Tearz." Understand that I was essentially listening to it by myself, as I was stuck with the same two people on tour that didn't exactly correspond to the Wu. As soon as I had another head to bob with, the hits kept coming.

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