My favorite albums: ‘Something Else by the Kinks’


O, “Something Else by the Kinks.” How I love you.

You’re not my favorite Kinks album. That honor probably goes to “Village Green Preservation Society,” though I could go with “Arthur” if you catch me on the right day.

You’re also, at times, inconsistent. When I’m generous, I blame the sometimes muddy production by Shel Talmy, who seems to have never figured out the word “nuance.” (Loud guitars and pinned VU meters make for great early Kinks and Who singles, but don’t do well by harpsichords.) When I’m not, I’d just as soon you’d have dropped …

Well, that’s the thing. I can’t figure out what song I’d cut.

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My favorite albums: ‘Run Devil Run’

Image from Capitol Records.

(Update, 9/24 2:46 p.m.: My friend John Lorinc did this piece for WABE radio on the drugstore — and product — that helped inspire the album:)

Linda McCartney died in 1998. She and Paul McCartney had been married for 29 years. By all accounts, it had been a happy marriage.

Paul was bereft. To ease his soul, he decided to get back to his roots with an album of old rock ‘n’ roll covers. He rounded up a bunch of musician pals — David Gilmour, Pete Wingfield, Dave Mattacks among them — and recorded “Run Devil Run” in two months.

It may be the best of his post-“Tug of War” albums.

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My favorite albums: ‘Skylarking’

From Astralwerks.

Update, 11:10 a.m. The @xtcfans account, which is the voice of Colin Moulding Andy Partridge (ack! I was so rattled I referred to the wrong guy), responded to my use of the phrase “still sniping at Rundgren” in this entry:

My apologies for the glibness (and for referring originally NOT to “that bloke, the smart arsed one with the glasses”). The sentence has been changed.

Every so often, an act comes along that, based on tunefulness and wit, is likened to the Beatles. Emitt Rhodes was the “one-man Beatles” in the early ’70s; Squeeze, led by the songwriting team of Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, were the Beatlesque group of the early ’80s.

(Incidentally, apropos of nothing, here’s Emitt Rhodes on “The Dating Game”:)

And then there was XTC.

It was hard to know what to make of the English quartet, later a trio, as they put out albums such as “Drums and Wires” and “The Big Express.” Their songs were obviously pop, or pop-rock — how else can you describe “Life Begins at the Hop” or “Senses Working Overtime”? — but there was always something off-kilter about them, something angular and discordant: more art than pop.

Ironically, they were most Beatlesque when not being XTC, as when they masqueraded as the psychedelic band the Dukes of Stratosphear in 1985 and 1987. “Collideoscope” would have fit right in on “Revolver.” (OK, maybe the Stones’ “Their Satanic Majesties Request.”)

So when the news came out that XTC was going to be making an album with Todd Rundgren, himself an occasional one-man Beatles, it was like news from pop heaven. Finally! A producer who could smooth out XTC’s loose ends and rein in their stranger impulses.

It worked out — and it didn’t work out.

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My favorite albums: ‘Jesus of Cool’


A friend recently tagged me on Facebook. “Post the cover of a great album,” his post began. “No need to explain why it’s a great album.”

Naturally, I started mentally riffling through my entire album collection. Should I go with one of my all-time favorites, like Bob Dylan’s “Blonde on Blonde”? (Which isn’t just “one of” my all-time favorites, it’s the pinnacle.) Do I go with something recent, like Alabama Shakes’ “Boys & Girls”? (But it’s a crummy cover.) Do I go with a classic album with a great cover, though I’m not a huge fan of the music? (The Mothers of Invention’s “Weasels Ripped My Flesh” comes to mind.)

I finally settled on Nick Lowe’s “Jesus of Cool.”

Well, “settled on” isn’t quite the right phrase. I’ve been a huge fan of Lowe’s 1978 solo debut since I purchased it sometime in the ’80s under its American title, “Pure Pop for Now People” — a title which, though it’s not as subversive as “Jesus of Cool,” may be more appropriate and a better name, too. (Hell, it’s up there with “Weasels Ripped My Flesh.”)

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My favorite albums: ‘Utopia Parkway’

Image from Atlantic Records.

I’ve always been a sucker for albums that aim for the pop-rock ideal: “Rubber Soul”/”Revolver”-era Beatles.

I’d put the Bangles’ “All Over the Place” in that group, along with Sam Phillips’ “Martinis & Bikinis” (which actually steals a riff from “If I Needed Someone”) and, of course, the long-lost Wonders album, “That Thing You Do!”

OK, there was no Wonders record. The band broke up not long after the “That Thing You Do!” single topped out at No. 2, and though Jimmy Mattingly’s Heardsmen had some success, the band would be completely lost to the ages if not for the 1996 Tom Hanks documentary.

Actually, there was no Wonders (or Oneders, as their hardcore fans call them), but when Hanks needed a title cut for his soundtrack album — a song that would have been a Top Five hit in 1964 — he put out the call for submissions. The winner was by a 28-year-old songwriter named Adam Schlesinger, who has turned out to be a terrific talent both on his own (he’s composed songs for several movies, TV shows and other musicians) and with the band he formed with his college friend, Chris Collingwood: Fountains of Wayne.

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My favorite albums: ‘Car Wheels on a Gravel Road’

Mercury Records via

Lucinda Williams makes me swoon.

Her voice is capable of profound ache, smoldering sexuality and a shrug of wistfulness, giving rich colors to the often straightforward arrangements of her terrific songs.

Never have those qualities been more apparent than on her 1998 album, “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.”

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My favorite albums: ‘Hollywood Dream’


Image from

There used to be a record store in New Orleans called Leisure Landing. It may have had the best selection of new records in town (if you wanted used, there was Record Ron’s), and they also had the best prices: $5.99 for a new LP when retail was $7.98 or $8.98. When I had some extra money, I’d go there after school, taking the streetcar down St. Charles and walking a few blocks to Magazine. Leisure Landing was where I bought “Beatles ‘65” and “The History of the Bonzos” and who knows how many other records.

(Funny how you remember these things.)

The other thing about Leisure Landing was, if they didn’t have it, they’d happily order it. They kept a copy of PhonoLog, the thick, yellow-sheeted database of recordings, near the register, and if your request was in there, they’d find a way to get it.

Which is how I ended up ordering Thunderclap Newman’s “Hollywood Dream” one day.

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