Jason’s Jukebox: REM

The 1980’s were a great time for indie music (or alternative). You had great bands that gained mass popularity like Duran Duran, The Pretenders, Talking Heads, and The Clash. But one band that hovered under the radar for quite a while was REM. It’s also one of those rare 80’s acts that managed not only to survive the 90’s, but put out most of their best material in that decade. This time around, I’ll be looking at their albums.

The line-up:

  • Michael Stipe: vocals
  • Peter Buck: guitar
  • Mike Mills: Bass/backing vocals
  • Bill Berry: drums

murmur Murmur (1983) ****

Single: “Radio Free Europe”
Rolling Stone may have been occasionally out of touch over its lifespan, but it was on the right track when it gave the debut 4 out of 5 stars. Today, over thirty years after its release, it’s still one of the best debuts I’ve ever heard. I just wish Stipe was more coherent, but he fixed that later on, thank goodness.

Best tracks: “Radio Free Europe”, “Talk About the Passion”, “Perfect Circle”, “Sitting Still”

reckoningReckoning (1984) ***

Singles: “South Central Rain”, “Don’t Go Back to Rockville”

Producer Don Dixon wanted this album to rock harder than its predecessor, but it doesn’t really work for me. There’s some standouts, but I don’t like it as much as Murmur.

Best tracks: “Harborcoat”, “South Central Rain”, “Pretty Persuasion”

fablesFables of the Reconstruction ** (1985)

Singles: “Can’t Get There From Here”, “Driver 8”, “Wendell Gee”

This was the only REM album produced outside the US, working with Joe Boyd as their producer. The album is one of REM’s concepts (the other being Automatic For the People), exploring Southern Gothic themes. At the time, it was REM’s highest charter, reaching #28. However, Michael Stipe wasn’t fond of the result at first, but over the years he and Buck have changed their minds.  It’s not bad, but I’m not a fan.

Best tracks: “Driver 8”, “Green Grow the Rushes”

pageantLife’s Rich Pageant ***1/2 (1986)

Singles: “Fall On Me”, “Superman”

This was REM’s first gold album. It was REM’s first foray into political themes with songs like “Fall on Me” and “Cuyahoya” heralding a trend that would continue for quite a few albums.

Best tracks: “Fall On Me”, “Cuyahoga”, “Superman”, “Flowers of Guatemala”

deadletterDead Letter Office ***1/2 (1987)

This is REM’s B-sides and rarities collection, so it’s only here for completeness. It marks the transition to Warner Bros and bigger fame. What really sells it are the covers.

Best tracks: “Toys in the Attic”, “Pale Blue Eyes”, “Femme Fatale”, “King of the Road”

documentDocument *****(1987)

Singles: “The One I Love”, “End of the World”, “Finest Worksong”

This was one of REM’s most important albums, marking the end of their status as solely alternative rock and the beginning of their more mainstream success. It was their final album with IRS, and their first with producer Scott Litt, who did phenomenal work with them over the years. For me, this was my introduction to the band, thanks to the loads of airplay “The One I Love” got. It’s still one of their best albums, even if I can’t sing around with “End of the World”

Best tracks: “Exhuming McCarthy”, “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”, “The One I Love”, “Fireplace”,  “King of Birds”

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Jason’s Jukebox: 10 Favorite Albums V.1

For quite some year now, I’ve been posting articles ranking discographies from many of my favorite musicians and bands. But what do I think are the best albums of all time? Well, that’s far from easy! My list changes often, especially as I’ve been going through the book 1001 Albums You Must Before You Die. (I’ve only listened to over 260 of those so far.) So, here’s a new annual feature: My 10 Favorite Albums series!

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Jason’s Jukebox: The Cure

the cureIn 1979, The Cure released their debut Three Imaginary Boys. Although Bauhaus predates them as the first Goth Rock band, The Cure is probably one of the most well-known. This time around, I’m ranking all of The Cure’s studio albums.

imaginary 1) Three Imaginary Boys (1979) ***

Single:  “Jumping Someone Else’s Train”

(Note: The United States had a different debut, Boys Don’t Cry, which yielded them their first US hit with its title track. The track list for this is mostly the same as their UK debut)

Although Robert Smith would disagree, I find this debut isn’t bad.  There a few tracks that miss the mark, but it’s overall a great start.

Best Tracks: “10:15 Saturday Night”, “Foxy Lady”, “Jumping Someone Else’s Train”

seventeen 2) Seventeen Seconds (1980) ****

Single: “A Forest”

This is The Cure’s first true Goth Rock album, and is still considered one of their strongest. Not bad for an album this early in their run. It totally averts the “Sophomore Slump”, but fame would not be on their side yet.

Best tracks: “Play For Today”, “Secrets”, “A Forest”

faith 3) Faith (1981) **1/2

Single: “The Holy Hour”

This album seems like a few steps down despite Robert Smith still showing his strengths as a vocalist. I wasn’t too impressed.

Best Tracks: “The Holy Hour”

pornography4) Pornography (1982) ****1/2

Single: “The Hanging Garden”

This is a true early success, containing “One Hundred Years”, which would become a live favorite.  Simon Gallup’s bass line accents Robert’s vocals well.

Best tracks: “One Hundred Years”, “The Hanging Garden”, “Siamese Twins”

top5. The Top (1984) *

Single: “The Caterpillar”

This is the first real dud for the band. It’s mostly forgettable, save for a couple tracks.

Best Tracks: “Wailing Wall”, “The Top”

head 6. Head on the Door (1985) ***

Singles: “In Between Days”, “Close to Me”

Founding drummer Lol Tolhurst left before this album, becoming the first founder to leave (although he would return for a brief period later on) This album also marks Porl Thompson’s introduction, turning the band into a quintet. The album sold modestly in the US thanks to its singles.

Best Tracks: “In Between Days”, “Six Different Ways”, “Close To Me”

kiss me7)  Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me (1987) ***1/2

Singles: “Why Can’t I Be You”, “Just Like Heaven”, “Hot Hot Hot”

This was The Cure’s first true breakthrough, with three big hits. It started a big wave that would continue for two more albums.

Best Tracks: “If Only Tonight We Could Sleep”, “Why Can’t I Be You”, “Just Like Heaven”, “Hot Hot Hot”, “Shiver and Shake”

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Jason’s Jukebox: Foreigner

It was 1976. Disco was beginning to wane. It was time for Rock to return. And one band that helped user it back in was Foreigner. This time, Jason’s Jukebox looks back at the career of one of the greatest arena rock bands of the late 70’s and 80’s, Foreigner!

Members

  • Lou Gramm–lead vocals (currently replaced by Kelly Hansen)
  • Mick Jones–lead guitar, keyboards, backing vocals (not to be confused w/Mick Jones from the Clash)
  • Ian McDonald–rhythm guitar, keyboards, saxophone
  • Rick Wills–bass, backing vocals (currently replaced by Jeff Pilson)
  • Al Greenwood–keyboards
  • Dennis Elliot–drums

Mick Jones formed the band in 1976, naming them Foreigner because there were members from both the US and England. Throughout the late 70’s and the 80’s, Foreigner did pretty well. These days, they’re still around, but they just tour.

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Jason’s Jukebox: Pink Floyd

pink floyd1967 was an excellent year in Rock history.  Jefferson Airplane released their landmark album Surrealistic Pillow. The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. And two forces that would change the genre forever debuted: Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd. This time, I’m ranking all 15 of Pink Floyd’s studio albums.

The five members of Pink Floyd are:

  • Roger Waters–vocals, guitar
  • Syd Barrett–vocals, rhythm guitar
  • David Gilmour–vocals, guitar
  • Richard Wright–bass
  • Nick Mason–drums, percussion

Of all the five members, Nick Mason was the only one who appeared on every album.  Roger, Syd, and David each had solo careers in addition to their work in  Pink Floyd.

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Jason’s Jukebox: Soul Asylum

soul asylum

In 1992, Soul Asylum released their breakthrough album, Grave Dancer’s Union, beginning a brief brush with fame. But in reality, the band started in 1981, eleven years prior. In 2016, they released their newest album, Change of Fortune. I figured this would be a good time to look at the history of the band so far.

The current line-up is:

  • Dave Pirner: vocals, guitar
  • Michael Bland: drums, backing vocals
  • Winston Roye: bass, backing vocals
  • Ryan Smith: lead guitar, backing vocals

clarence

Say What You Will Clarence…Karl Sold the Truck (1984)**

Singles: “Walking”, “Happy”, “Religiavsion”

This was the first of three albums on the Twin/Tone label. The “Karl” in the album’s title is Karl Mueller, the band’s first bassist. It has a rather rough sound, and is kind of meh.

Best Tracks: “Dragging Me Down”, “Religiavision”, “Broken Glass”

made

Made to Be Broken (1986)**

Singles: “Never Really Been”, “Tied to the Tracks”, “Made to Be Broken”

1986 was quite a busy year for Soul Asylum, as they released three albums, one of which was cassette only, and will not be covered in this article.

Best Tracks: “Never Really Been”, “Tied to the Tracks”, “Long Way Home”

while you

While You Were Out (1986) ***

Singles: “Crashing Down”, “Lap of Luxury”, “Never Too Soon”, “The Judge”

This marked the end of the Twin/Tone era. “The Judge” was covered by the Wildhearts and “Closer to the Stars” by Automatic 7.

Best tracks: “Crashing Down”, “The Judge”, “Sun Don’t Shine”, “Closer to the Stars”

hang time

Hang Time (1988) ***

Singles: “Marionette”, “Little Too Clean”, “Cartoon”

This was the band’s major label debut, this time with A&M records. Dan Murphy temporarily joined the band with this album.

Best tracks: “Little Too Clean”, “Cartoon”, “Endless Farewell”, “Marionette”

clam dip

Clam Dip and Other Delights (1989) * (EP)

The title of this EP is actually a parody of Herb Alpert’s Whipped Cream & Other Delights, a nod to their record label’s founder, Herb Alpert.

Best Tracks: “Chains”, “P-9”

and the horse

And the Horse They Rode in On (1990) ****

Singles: “Brand New Shine”, “Easy Street”, “Veil of Tears”, “Nice Guys (Don’t Get Paid)”

Their final album with A&M, and one of their best overall.

Best Tracks: “Veil of Tears”, “Something Out of Nothing”, “Easy Street”, “Be On Your Way”

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Jason’s Jukebox: The Who

the-who

We’ll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgement of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song–“Won’t Get Fooled Again”

In the 1960’s, the British Invasion of Rock was in full swing. Bands like the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, and The Who changed the landscape. The Who even paved the way for punk rock, according to frontmen for The Ramones and The Clash, two of the most influential bands of the genre. For this edition of Jason’s Jukebox, I am focusing on this pivotal band.

The members are:

  • Roger Daltry– lead vocals, guitar
  • Pete Townshend–lead guitar, backing vocals
  • John Entwhistele–bass, piano (deceased, 2002)
  • Keith Moon–drums (deceased, 1978)

my-generation

My Generation (1965) ***1/2

Singles: “My Generation”, “The Kids Are All Right”

The Who’s debut is a strong start. It’s not as polished as their later albums (especially their 5th and 6th albums), but what it lacks in production it makes up for in energy. The title track blasts its defiance in a mood that would be echoed by punk rockers everywhere. The harmonies of Daltry and Townshend are on point.

Best tracks: “I Don’t Mind”, “My Generation”, “The Kids Are All Right”

quick

A Quick One (1966) **1/2

Singles: “Happy Jack”, “Boris the Spider”

This album is aptly named, as it’s the shortest one in the discography.  It’s the odd one out, as Pete Townshend’s songwriting is the least prominent on this album. It’s got a decent cover of “Heat Wave”. The nine-minute closing song, “A Quick One, While He’s Away” could be considered foreshadowing of Tommy.

Best Tracks: “Boris the Spider”, “Heat Wave”, “A Quick One, While He’s Away”

sell-out

The Who Sell Out (1966) *****

Singles: “I Can See For Miles”, “Mary Anne With the Shaky Hand”

This is the first of three concept albums by the Who. The idea behind the album is that they’ve taken over a radio station to broadcast the album. Even the album cover evokes the “sell-out” theme, with each member hocking a different product. Roger Daltry advertises Heinz Baked Beans, Pete Townshend sells Odorono deordant, Keith Moon sells sports cream, and John Entwhistle parodies Charles Atlas’s exercise program. There are even commercial breaks and songs that could be jingles.

Best Tracks: “Armenia City in the Sky”, “Mary Anne with the Shaky Hand”, “Odorono”, “I Can See For Miles”, “I Can’t Reach You”

tommy

Tommy (1969) *****

Singles: “Pinball Wizard”, “We’re Not Gonna Take It/See Me, Feel Me”

Of the three concept albums The Who recorded, Tommy is the most legendary. It does seem a bit pretentious by some, but I enjoy it. It paved the way for many other bands to create concept albums of their own, such as Pink Floyd, Genesis, and Green Day.

Best Tracks: “Pinball Wizard”, “I’m Free”, “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, “Smash the Mirror”

whos-next

Who’s Next (1971) *****

Singles: “Bargain”, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, “Baba O’Reilly”

Pete Townshend considers this The Who’s best album. For me, it’s a toss-up between this and Tommy. It’s just straight-up rock, and contains many of their most famous songs. “Baba O’Reilly” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” may be a bit overplayed these days (especially considering how the latter has become a meme), but that doesn’t diminish their impact. Glynn John’s production is excellent.

Best Tracks: “Bargain”, “Getting in Tune”, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”

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