I picked up the latest issue of British music magazine, Q, this weekend, the cover story of which being a big piece on so-called "Guilty Pleasures,"' i.e. arguably disreputable albums that are "okay to love" by artists otherwise unencumbered by credibility. Despite the magazine's somewhat middle-of-the-road posture on many topics, I like Q and am always curious about their take on things. However, quite a few of the albums they cite in their run-down are ones I wouldn't consider embarassing at all (Moving Pictures by Rush, Introducing the Hardline... by Terence Trent D'Arby, etc.) Time was when I was more concerned with defining my identity by the music I listened to, prompting me to scramble to hide my Ratt albums when my punkily-inclined friends came visiting or hiding my Devo records when my metalhead pals were around. But everyone has such meaningless "skeletons" in their closet. It's a niggling leftover tick from the teenage years whose hooks dig deep.
Gradually, I started giving less of a damn. I like what I like for whatever reason. That doesn't mean I'm not embarassed by some of the dubious selections in my collection (when you own upwards of two-thousand-six-hundred CDs, not all of them are going to be pure gold). I used to work at TIME Magazine with an equally frothy-mouthed music fan named Jon. When he deduced that I was as equally voracious -- and equally opinionated -- about my record collecting, he wasted no time in printing out his Old Testament-sized list of discs, and would drop regularly updated copies (with a mighty ::thud::) on my desk for my perusal. "Jon, it's not quantity that counts," I'd breezily inform him, doubtlessly sending him into a rage, " it quality." Not to be outdone, of course, I started cataloging a master list of my own increasingly unwieldly collection. When they were all lined-up on my shelves, they looked pretty respectable. But in stark, clinical black and white, it was a different story. Sprinkled alongside hipster-approved albums by Parliament, Neu!, Black Flag and Pere Ubu came clout-immolating names like Candyflip, Whitesnake, the Mission UK, Sigue Sigue Sputnik and Ace of Base (yes, I own The Sign). More recently, when an almost-intimidatingly music-savvy friend at the Job similarly asked if I kept a list of my collection, I sheepishly surrended it to him, but not before warning him ahead of time that it was rife with potentially cringe-inducing clunkers.
But I feel absolutely no guilt in admitting the pleasure I get from albums by artists like Kiss, Queen, Rush, Billy Idol, Iron Maiden, the Plasmatics, Motley Crue, etc. Similarly, while they may not have aged so well, I still proudly keep albums by then-seemingly-esoteric 90's Brit-indie also-rans like Ned's Atomic Dustbin, Senseless Things, Ride, Curve, Pale Saints and Chapterhouse on my shelves. I also have albums by artists like Weezer and Stone Temple Pilots that I think people *should* feel quasi-guilty about (why both of these bands still entertain sizable fan bases is beyond me). But whatever -- it's all more or less decent stuff.
That all said, I do have several albums that -- while I'm not at all proud of owning -- I would never part with, if only because each and every one of them managed to capture my attention, imagination and affection for some reason or another. So, why not throw open the doors of that closet and let the skeletons come out and furiously air-guitar? I love each of the albums below -- loosely ranked in order from the passively offensive to the abjectly indefensible - and I don't care who knows it (well, we'll see about that tomorrow). Herewith my FORTY GUILTY PLEASURE ALBUMS:
#40. Two Steps From the Move by Hanoi Rocks: I don't really express any guilt over owning this record -- the cursed Finnish glam-metal ensemble's sole attempt to break the American market. I picked it up on the debatable strength of their cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Up Around the Bend" (which -- in retrospect -- is dire, despite the inarguable brilliance of that riff). Vocalist/pseudo-androgyne, Mike Monroe really has no voice at all, and the production is devoid of character or bite, but for the CCR cover and "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" (despite the titlular resemblance, Green Day did not later cover this particular track), I'll never get rid of it. It reminds me of my -- evidently hugely confused -- latter years of high school.
Best Bit: That riff and the "do-do-doyahhs" on the CCR cover.
#39. Arc of a Diver by Steve Winwood: Revered member of Traffic, Blind Faith and the Spencer Davis Group, Winwood said goodbye to all that gritty blues swagger and went all soft rock on this `81 effort. I had no clue who Traffic was at the time, but I remember quite digging the title track, which was all the rage on yawnsome classic rock radio at the time. It's aged remarkably well, as far as I'm concerned -- despite having all the bite of a stale loaf of Wonder bread. Also contained the singles "When You See a Chance" and "Spanish Dancer."
Best Bit: The opening, lilting guitar riff of the title track.
#38. Tin Machine by Tin Machine: Ah, now we're getting somewhere! With the exception of the man's justifiably derided Never Let Me Down (which immediately preceded this album), nothing David Bowie has been involved in has ever generated as much ire as this band-ish side project. Roping in Iggy's old rhythm section (the Sales brothers -- sons of Soupy!!!) and balding guitar noodler, Reeves Gabrels, Bowie assumed the role of frontman for a noise-inclined garage band. Fair enough, I say. It may have been a flimsy conceit, but I think "Heaven's in Here," "Tin Machine," "Under the God" and a couple of the other tracks actually do rock. I mean, yeah, there's some crap here too (notably their ill-considered cover of Lennon's "Working Class Hero"), but I don't think it's nearly as bad as some folks say.
Best Bit: When the central riff of "Tin Machine" re-introduces itself at exactly 01:25
#37. Sugar Ray by Sugar Ray: Okay, now it's starting to get tough. No one believes me when I tell them that this rinky-dink Orange County band's first album, Lemonade & Brownies, is actually pretty entertaining. Regardless, the only reason to own this album (their third or fourth...who remembers?) is "When It's Over," a succint little break-up song with a great pop hook. Sure, maybe they're complete frat boy jerks, but it's still a great little pop tune. Sue me.
Best Bit: The chorus of "When It's Over."
#36 Fush Yu Mang by Smash Mouth: Like Sugar Ray's less photogenic cousins, Smath Mouth were yet another gaggle of irritating Californians in Hawaiian shirt hanging out in Tiki-themed bars. That all said, this debut album boasted not only the irrepresible "Walking On the Sun", but also the gloriously idiotic "Let's Rock" and "Heave-Ho."
Best Bit: That intro to "Walking On the Sun" at exactly 00:08. Still fucking great.
#35. The Best by David Lee Roth: Adding insult to injury, not only am I citing a DLR album, but a Best-Of at that! Look, if you're like me, you still bitterly rue the day that the insufferable Mr. Roth left the fold of Van Halen. "Just a Gigolo" and "California Girls" were entertaining enough, but none of us ever thought it would spell the end of classic-line-up VH. But, of course it did. As far as hit-compilations go, ninety-seven perect of this disc is absolute crap, but for the afore-mentioned tracks from Crazy From the Heat and the lone respectable single from Eat'em & Smile, "Yankee Rose," it earns a place on my shelves. He really wouldn't redeem himself until the fleeting "Me Wise Magic" on VH's The Best of Van Halen Vol. 1 several years later (only to later disembowl the shattered remains of his dignity a decade later as Howard Stern's would-be replacement). Oh well.
Best Bit: "Well, let me roll up onto the sidwalk and take a look, yes!" in "Yankee Rose" (00:11)
#34. Left of the Middle by Natalie Imbruglia: Boy, this is tougher than I thought. Not sure how to explain this one, but I remember the wife really liking it (and that goes a long way in convincing me of stuff). "Torn" is a great little tune (and it certainly didn't hurt that Imbruglia herself was rather easy on the eyes). As a desperate grab at cred, I might point out that "Torn" was actually penned by one-time Cure bass player, Phil Thornalley. Amazingly, I managed to listen to other tracks on the album and even developed an affinity for the song "City," but I'll be damned if I could hum it for you (it had a nice, chunky guitar hook, if I recall correctly). All I know is that "Torn" used to make my lovely wife smile, and that makes this disc priceless.
Best Bit: The slide guitar in "Torn" that relieves little Natalie from her vocal duties at exactly 03:27.
#33. At Their Best by Jefferson Starship: I will indeed be amazed if any of my cool friends continue talking to me after reading this. In any case, this cut-price collection of Jefferson Starship (god, help me) tunes is one I picked up on the strength of the inclusion of not only their quasi-defensible 70's ballad, "Miracles" but also their bloated anthems like "Find Your Way Back" and "Jane" (leant ironic cool by its placement during the opening credits of "Wet Hot American Summer"). It doesn't happen often -- but when the mood strikes, it's perfect!
Best Bit: When the staccato keyboards merge with the power chords in the intro "Jane" at exactly 00:17. OH FUCK YEAH, BUDDY!
#32. Flashback by the J.Geils Band: Another best-of -- do I suck or what? In any case, Flashback neatly encapsulates all one could ever possibly need from the J.Geils band, including not only the overplayed "Centerfold," but better numbers like "Love Stinks," the amazing "Come Back" and their live doo-wop homage, "I Do." I promise you, they're really not as uncool as you think they are! Honest!. Alright, maybe they are, but hey -- they had a guy named "Magic Dick" in the band! MAGIC DICK! Well, I tried.
Best Bit: The "baby" refrain of "Come Back" that first reveals itself at 00:43
#31. Buckcherry by Buckcherry: I'm not going to waste a lot of time defending this one, because if you can't appreciate the wanton, coke-espousing charm of "Lit Up" (in a rollicking Ace Frehley-meets-Johnny-Thunders guitar spot-welding), then you simply suck a big bag of dicks and have no right owning any stereo equipment. I find it impossible to sit still when this plays. Best Bit: "Lit Up" is just genius from start to finish. If you beg to differ, you're just wallowing in a sickly mudslick of WRONG!
#30. Seal by Seal: At the time, he genuinely seemed pretty hip. Regardless, I still think Seal's debut album (the one with "Crazy" and..umm..when he still had hair) is great stuff, however devoid of edge. He later became mawkish, soppy milquetoast crapola -- or maybe he always was -- but this album remains a keeper as far as I'm concerned.
Best Bit: Fuck if I know what he's singin' about, but the entirety of "Future Love Paradise" is great, great stuff.
#29. Boston by Boston: Another one I don't think really needs a lot of defending, much-maligned though it remains. Classic if only for its singular adherence to flawless, slick (over)production to the n'th degree. The soaring harmonies, the crying guitar solos, the extended passages of quasi-prog noodlery. If I was really pressed on the issue, I'd say the band's finest hour was the title track to their second album, Don't Look Back, the glorious, circular riff of which still gives me the giddy shivers like I was eleven years old again and hearing it from the backseat of the car, hoping one or both of my parents aren't about to switch the station. But, I never owned that album, so I'm sticking with their first one. Best Bit: When the formerly acoustic riff of "Long Time" is reprised by a thick, chunky, rocktastic electric one at exactly 06:58. Oh my God!
#28. Complete Greatest Hits by Foreigner: Yeah, bite me, haters! I actually own a couple of Foreigner albums, but I figured I'd pick this "best-of" not only because it handily compiles all their best cuts in one batch, but also because "best-of"s are extra lamentable. I was never a huge fan of Foreigner by any stretch, but I've always had a soft-spot for their less-celebrated track, "Long, Long Way from Home" (which awesomely refers to NYC as "the Apple in Decay!") from their debut, which I accidentally taped off the radio (remember when we used to do that?) after I'd taped "Private Idaho" by the B-52s. And if you fail to acknowledge the sheer pop perfection of "Urgent," you're an idiot.
Best Bit: The jittery pulse of "Urgent" and the introduction of that saxophone at 01:32.
#27. Faster Than the Speed of Night by Bonnie Tyler: I was originally going to leave this one out as "Total Eclipse of the Heart" is already the go-to example and crassly revered as some sort've ironic anthem. When I was in high school, however, the merits of this song had nothing to do with irony, and all and sundry thrilled to its gloriously over-the-top histrionica. I never liked Bat Out of Hell by Meat Loaf, but "Total Eclipse..." is far and away producer Jim Steinam's finest hour (though "This Corrosion" by the Sisters of Mercy comes damn close!). Best Bit: Every nano-second of "Total Eclipse..." is heart-pulverisingly crucial.
#26. Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield: Despite being the quintessence of wanky, progressive muso self-importance, Tubular Bells remains a keeper if only because of its (fleeting) affiliation with William Friedkin's horror classic, "The Exorcist." Though tacked onto said film's soundtrack, I only dimly remember hearing it during a scene wherein conflicted mother, Ellen Burstyn is walking around Georgetown on Halloween and sees a couple of nuns in flowing black robes. In any case, "Tubular Bells" is still creepily hypnotic, with that extra faint whiff of brimstone to boot. Best Bit: The bass guitar suddenly starts tugging you towards Hell at exactly -- WAIT FOR IT -- 06:06. Hail Satan.
#25. The Best of Sade by Sade: I was originally going to cite her last studio album, Lover's Rock, but this collection is a thousand-times more appropos as a guilty pleasure (and Lover's Rock is a great album that no one should feel shame for owning). The Best Of.. features both the lovely songbird's schmaltzy early, slickly overproduced material like "Smooth Operator," but also slow-burners like "No Ordinary Love." Yeah, it may be gratuitous bump'n'grind music, but you tell me -- what exactly is wrong with that? Best Bit: The slow, sad descent into the intro of "No Ordinary Love".
#24. Sultans of Swing by Dire Straits: I'm somewhat hard pressed to find a reason to hold onto this one, but it still manages to dodge my hand every time I'm weeding the CD garden. I can't say I've ever played it a great deal -- after I found it on the discard pile at work one day -- but every now and then, I'll throw on "Money for Nothing" and/or "Tunnel of Love". And Mark Knopfler's score to "Local Hero" (a bit of which is apprised here) is lovely. It ain't exactly London Calling or Back in Black, but I'll keep it, thanks.
Best Bit: The opening flutter of tastefully struck notes of "Wild Theme" (originally from the score of "Local Hero").
#23. Business as Usual by Men at Work: I vividly remember buying this album at a long-gone record store on Madison Avenue in the 30's on the same day I bought Ozzy's live-double album, Speak of the Devil. The two albums complemented each other nicely. I never really liked "Who Can it Be Now?", but "Johnny Be Good" and "Down Under" were great singles. Best Bit: "Helpless Automaton" is the best early Police song the Police never wrote.
#22. Wingspan by Paul McCartney & Wings: Sure, he's an ex-Beatle, but he also wrote critically indefensible piffle like "Pipes of Peace" and "No More Lonely Nights." In any event, David Gilmour's guitar solo on the latter makes it forgivable. This collection of Macca/Wings tracks had already be pre-figured by a clutch of other compilations (not least the entirely solid Wings Greatest), but also tacked on cringe-worthy ephemera that would've been best left in the vault. Who cares? There's still some amazing moments here. Best Bit:C'mon, you HAVE to love "Live And Let Die"!
#21. The Very Best of 10cc by 10cc: They're little more than an obscure two-hit-wonder here, but they're postively loathed in their homeland. In any case, I see absolutely nothing wrong with 10cc. And "I'm Not in Love" is absolutely godike. If you can't hear that, cut your ears off -- they're of no use to you. Best Bit: There isn't a bad second during all six minutes of "I'm Not In Love." Gorgeous.
#20 MCMXC a.D. by Enigma: I just love the fact that when this ablum came out, so many folks -- myself included -- thought it sounded so deep and
atmospheric, failing to recognize it for the vast dollop of tepid cheese-whiz that it actually was. It hasn't aged at all well, though it's positively priceless as a period piece of unintentional comedy. Gregorian chants, hip hop beats, moody synths -- it arguably helped pave the way for acts like AIR and Zero 7 a decade later. Best bit: the ludicrous instruction by "the Voice of Enimga" (complete with vague Euro accent) to relax.
#19 The Very Best of Cat Stevens: by Cat Stevens: Despite achieving short-lived hipster cred via his music's placement in Wes Anderson's justly beloved "Rushmore," there is precious little that is especially cool about Yusuf Islam, nee Cat Stevens. After I admitted my fandom for the hirsute troubadour-turned-devout-Muslim's 1971 album, Teaser & The Firecat (a big favorite of my parents' back in the day -- they routinely played the eight-track), I was practically kicked out of the Firewatercircus. In any case, because the man's voice is so inexorably entwined with memories of my childhood, I'll continue to tirelessly defend him. Best Bit: The Ooooh-Ahh-Eeyahh-Oowahhh refrain from stinky hippy anthem, "Peace Train."
#18. Pump Up the Jam - The Album by Technotronic: Oh sure, they're a complete punchline today, but when I first heard "Pump Up the Jam," it actually seemed like a pretty big deal. I was working for a tiny music mag at the time, edited by a slightly maniacal editor who used to deejay at a number of clubs (this was in the late 80's, when the big, cavernouos NYC club phenom was still in full swing). In any case, he was raving about Technotronic and how revolutionary it was and blah blah blah and thus, never stopped playing it. I finally succumbed and picked up a cassette of the "band"'s debut album while on jury duty. I picked it up at J.R. Music World the same day I bought the cassette of Louder Than Love by Soundgarden, and strenuously applauded myself for being so "eclectic". Almost twenty years later (!!!), deposed "singer" Felly, slightly butch behind-the-scenes rapper, Ya Kid K and "Pump Up the Jam" are all footnotes, but any time I need to conjure the Summer of `89, this is one of the discs I reach for. Best Bit: That first "Oh I!" in the chorus to "Pump Up the Jam" at exactly 00:31.
#17. Amplified Heart by Everything But the Girl: Andrew Eldritch of the Sisters of Mercy once posted on his band's website that he not only loathed and despised Everything But the Girl, but that they were also the ugliest people imaginable (yeah, like you're such a jar of eye-candy, Andrew). Regardless, Amplified Heart sank its talons into me in late `92 when I was busy wasting vast amounts of time and energy wallowing in a viscous puddle of self-pity after being dumped by someone I really shouldn't have been dating in the first place (never fish off the company dock), and Everything But the Girl's pleasantly despondent pop tunes fit the situation to a tee. After this album, the band achieved hep cache by their affiliation with Massive Attack (EBTG vocalist, Tracey Thorn sang on a few cuts on the Trip Hop trio's gorgeous second album, Protection, not least the smoldering title track). Last I heard, Everything But the Girl were back to being decidedly not-hip. Amplified Heart remains a great, emotional tonic for newly-dumpeds and potential stalkers. BEST BIT: Tracy's mournful moan at exactly 02:06 into "Missing".
#16. Phantoms by The Fixx: Yeah, sure. They may have been soulless, overwrought, humorless, synthetic, pretentious, haplessly nerdy, awkwardly British, weedy and anaemic, but I still dug'em, not least for Jamie West-Oram's stylish guitar playing (no less distinctive than then-peer, The Edge's). I saw the band play at the Felt Forum (now called the Theatre at Madison Square Garden) on the tour for this album, and I remember it being pretty cool (General Public opened!). Though the only real "hit" on this record was the lyrically oblique "Are We Ourselves?", my personal fave tracks include "Lose Face" and "Sunshine in the Shade." They can't get arrested these days, but I think this stuff still sounds pretty good. BEST BIT: The chugging bridge of "Lose Face," rife with West-Oram's chiming, staccato guitar chords at exactly 01:32.
#15 Happiness by the Beloved: These guys were such a momentary blip on the radar that I'm not even sure they're eligible for inclusion here, but the album itself is so rife with giddy espousals of ecstacy-fueled euphoria and edgeless optimism that I feel somewhat silly owning it (being a the labouriously jaded cynic that I am). Apart from the (slightly) rocking single, "Hello," the majority of this disc borders on the insufferably saccharine and super-lite. But, if you're in the mood (i.e. high as a kite on E and have a time machine to take you back to 1989), it's perfect! The big single from their next album, "Sweet Harmony" was quite nice as well.
BEST BIT: The unapolegtic smile-blitzkrieg that is "Up, Up And Away."
#14. Drama by Yes: Despite being revered by both classic rock radio and a nation of hirsute, prog-rock die-hards, Yes have never been a hip name to drop (unless you're a complete loon like Vincent Gallo). Fragile remains their go-to disc (featuring such classics as "Roundabout" and "Long Distance Runaround"), whereas Drama remains one of their less celebrated discs. Elfin vocalist, Jon Anderson and King Arthur-crazed keyboardists Rick Wakeman (the man once scored a performance of King Arthur On Ice -- THE most un rock'n'roll thing EVER?) had left the fold, their places taken by Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes, otherwise known as The Buggles (of "Video Killed the Radio Star" fame). The Yes faithful were aghast. Regardless, Horn actually replicated Anderson's high-piped warble to convincing effect. Moreover, the rollicking "Tempus Fugit" amply proved that the band had lost none of their muscle, beefing up the band's sound, velocity and accessability (even adding elements of 'ska' [if you believe Allmusic.com] on the sprawling, amphetamine headfuck that was "Tempus Fugit"). Of course, it was not to last (the band fell apart, spawning Asia and paving the way for the streamlined, Trevor Rabin-era Yes and unleashing Horn to go find production fame behind Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Seal. Best Bit: 04:57 into "Tempus Fugit," when Steve Howe's guitar does a couple of cartwheels then disintegrates into countless spiraling, sonic fractals.
#13. Asia by Asia: The stage was set by the album cited at #14, Asia promised fans a bona fide prog supergroup. Imagine their dismay when the band in question -- featuring ex-members of Yes, King Crimson, ELP and …ummm...the Buggles, turned out to play mainstream pop-rock (I'm sure everybody blamed the Buggle). Regardless, Asia briefly excelled at hoarily overproduced radio fodder and at least birth one great single, that being "Only Time Will Tell," a flowery kiss-off propelled by histrionic bombast that robustly DEMANDS immediate irreponsible volume enhancement. Best Bit: The explosive intro to the album's opener, "Sole Survivor."
#12. Rarities, B-Sides and Other Stuff by Sarah McLachlan: Getting back into dangerous waters here. Though more renowned for being the insufferably pious founder of the Lilith Fair, the lovely Canuck named Sarah McLachlan - I'd like to sheepishly point out -- was once signed to Netwerk records (erstwhile home to fellow Canadians Skinny Puppy). I first heard McLachlan as the voice behind "As the End Draws Near," an atmospheric dance track by pseudo-industrial band, Manufacture. I passively followed her career after that. The Manufacture album that held the track in question is, I believe, out of pring, but Sarah tacked it onto this odds'n'ends collection (also containing her cover of XTC's "Dear God"). In any case, as far as I'm concerned, she has a lovely voice. BEST BIT: The jubilant middle-eight in the remix of "Into the Fire" (starting at 02:56) is quite lovely.
#11. From Time to Time: the Singles Collection by Paul Young: At this late stage in the proceedings, I should point out that I didn't actually purchase each and every compact disc that I happen to own. After several years of writing for a clutch of music magazines, several record labels were good enough to put me on their mailing lists, and my mailbox was shortly inundated with cumbersome cardboard boxes filled with albums, nine out of every ten being absolute crap. This little Best Of popped out of one of them, and while I never in a quadrillion years wuold've ever spent any hard earned cash -- or even cash I happened to find on the sidwalk, for that matter -- on a Paul Young album, I decided to hold onto it. Who doesn't love a little schmaltz every now and again from a British blue-eyed soul boy? The man's got a decent voice, and I always kinda liked "Come Back & Stay". Again, this is another favorite of the wife's. BEST BIT: When Paul starts to lose his shit towards the end of "Come Back and Stay (02:32)
#10. Rock 'N' Soul Pt. 1: Greatest Hits by Hall & Oates: Not only do I own this album, but I actually went to see them at Madison Square Garden (on the Big Bam Boom tour) with a pal of mine in high school named Leo (I was wearing a sling and a Circle Jerks t-shirt at the time). Sure, they're shameless cheese-mongers, but there's just no arguing with "She's Gone," "Sara Smile," the bass line of the utterly ridiculous "Man Eater." I also really love "Adult Education." My only regret here is the omission of "Family Man." Best Bit: The big drum and guitar breakdown at exactly 03:25 in "Adult Education."
#9. Script for a Jester's Tear by Marillion: They remain pretty obscure on this side of the pond (apart from a fleeting almost-hit called "Kayleigh"), but mention their name to a savvy Brit, and they're likely to dump a pint of beer over your head. Fatuous prog excess ala vintage Genesis, Script.... overflows with compicated time signatures, verbose lyrics, flowery guitar appregios and filligree-laden keyboards. I picked up this album sometime during my senior year of high school almost purely out of curiosity. Better in small doses than in long sittings, the title track is especially sprawling in its hoary histrionics, as burly frontman Fish (that's it....just Fish) laments laboriously over -- I think -- unrequited love. Best Bit: When the band kicks into an odd rhythmic pattern at 01:23 into the title track, supposedly inspired by the sound of a train passing over a bridge (or some ridiculous bullshit like that).
#8 Turn It On Again - Best Of 81-83 by Genesis: To quote a friend of mine this very day, "Phil Collins has got the kind of face that I'd never get tired of slapping." Yes, it's true - Phil Collins is a jackass, but I still have a soft-spot for a couple of Genesis tunes, notably "Mama" and "Turn It On Again." What can I tell ya? Best Bit: Every nanosecond of "Mama" is great, as far as I'm concerned.
#7.Breakfast in America by Supertramp: I remember when my sister bought this album in the summer of `79 that it was something I probably shouldn't like (as I was otherwise preoccupied at the time by Devo, the Ramones, Kiss and Adam & the Ants), but did anyway. They looked like a bunch of hairy creeps and vocalist Rodger Hodgson whined like a girl, but something about those plaintive keyboards on "The Logcial Song" and the slow build of "Gone Hollywood" kept me comin' back. Best Bit: When the saxophone starts puking all over "The Logical Song" at exactly 01:53.
#6. Strange Magic: The Best Of Electric Light Orchestra: by ELO: Insipidly silly, yes, but think of those pop gems: "Livin' Thing", "Do Ya," "Evil Woman," "Turn To Stone," "Mr.Blue Sky"? The list is endless. I think I picked this up second-hand, but my favorite memory of this collection dates back to 2001. I had a Russian personal trainer at the time named Ilya, who was a massive ELO fan, and quite out of the blue -- pardon the pun -- he asked me if I wanted to go see them play live. While I'd never harbored a great desire to see the band, the idea of seeing them with my Russian personal trainer was too funny not to entertain, so I said yes. Shortly before the night in question -- which I'd started to regret saying yes to -- I threw this collection on one night and found myself really psyching myself up and getting into it. "This is gonna be GREAT!," I lied to myself. As great as "Don't Bring Me Down" and "Living Thing" are, I had low expectations for the show, but I was determined to reamin optimistic. As fate had it, September 11th happened and the show was unsurprisingly cancelled. Oh well. Best Bit:"Please Turn Me Over" at the tail end of "Mr. Blue Sky (4:50)
#5 Tales Of Mystery & Imagination by The Alan Parsons Project: More wanky prog-lite from the pre-pop Alan Parsons Project. A concept album based around the writings of Edgar Allen Poe, I first heard bits of Tales Of Mystery & Imagination when my fifth grade teacher, Mr.Mclellan, used "The Raven" to score a scene of a weak school play adaptation of "Lord of the Flies" (lord knows why). In any case, I didn't hear it again until 1984, when I picked up a Portugese (!!!) copy of the album on cassette from the bookstore at the college I was visiting (a college I would attend the following year, Denison University). There's a lot of crap on this record, but "A Dream Within a Dream" and the afore-mentioned "Raven" are stunning. Best Bit:The creepy vocoded vocals on "The Raven" still give me a thrill all these many years later.PROG-O-GOTH!
#4. Quick Step & Side Kick by the Thompson Twins: Before they became complete crap, The Thompson Twins actually made some bizarrely great, dance music. They get no respect today, of course, but "Lies," "Love On Your Side" and "If You Were Here" were pretty fab, as far as I was concerned (the video for "Lies" being especially creepy, as I remember). I didn't mind "Hold Me Now," but they turned into shit after that. Best Bit: The rapid-fire opening drums of "Lies".
#3. Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We? by the Cranberries: If I'd known what they were going to turn into, I never would've picked up their first indie CD single, "Uncertain" back in `91. They seemed like a nice little rip-off of the Sundays, the Cranberries did, only with a slight Celtic lilt, and a pleasantly melacholy streak. This debut LP was suitably dipped in moody atmospherics and tastefully jangley guitars. And as I'd just been dumped by that co-worker (see #17), the depressive vibe of this record scored big points with me. By the next album, they swiftly became entirely lamentable. This record's still nice, though Best Bit: The open tangle of guitars of "Wanted" that completely swipe a Smiths song I can't place at the moment.
#2. In My Tribe by 10,000 Maniacs: Okay, I'll admit it. Natalie Merchant is a reprehensibly sanctimonious harpee, but I have to confess - I love this record. An inescapable disc during the second semester of my senior year of college, it seemed I couldn't walk from my front door to the classroom without hearing any one of its twelve tracks blasting out of someone's window (including their cover of Cat Stevens' "Peace Train," later stricken from the album once he was heard to support the fatwa against Salman Rushdie -- TAKE THAT, CAT!) I actually went to go see them that year at the Newport Music Hall in Columbus, Ohio (with some no-name oppressed woman with a guitar opening, who would turn into the very successful Tracy "Fast Car" Chapman a year later -- who knew?) In between songs, Merchant piously scolded the crowd for the litter-strewn streets of Ohio's capital. "You should all be ashamed of yourselves!" Yeah, rock'n'roll! Best Bit:I still adore "Don't Talk."
...and the most horribly embarassing disc in my collection is....
#1. Picture Book by Simply Red: Okay, okay, calm down -- let me explain. As abjectly indefensible as it is, I own it because back in the Summer `86, I worked as a surly, underpaid dishwasher at a snobby place out in the `Hamptons called The Barefoot Contessa. To be fair, the place had a relaxed vibe. There was a stereo in the front of store with speakers the played in the kitchen. At first, the management were pretty liberal about it. We could all bring in tapes (remember them?) and play whatever we wanted (within reason). This worked well enough for a while. I stupidly pushed the envelope a bit too hard one day, though, when I brought in Snap!, the compilation of tracks by the Jam (pretty harmless, I thought). Well, during the middle of -- either "Eton Rifles" or "Funeral Pyre" -- the manager came scrambling back in a frothy-rage (no love for Mr. Weller, I guess). In any case, from that day forward, only *two* tapes (count'em: 2) were allowed to be played. Those two tapes: the soundtrack to "Annie" and Picture Book by Simply Red. Adding insult to injury, the tape deck out front was set to auto-replay, so after a tape had played both its sides, it would START OVER AGAIN. The meant that we'd be treated to seemingly endless rotations. After a day or two, someone actually STOLE the "Annie" soundtrack tape -- honest, it wasn't me -- and invariably snapped it in half and buried it out back. That left us with Picture Book by Simpy Red -- over and over and over and over and over again. After a week or so, my fellow-dishdog, Bill, evidently reached the end of his tether and climbed up ontop of one of the freezers to disconnect the spearker wires that fed back into the kitchen, liberating us from Mick Hucknal's sickly whine. After that, we brought in our own boom box and subjected the kitchen staff to a steady diet of Iron Maiden and Black Flag. Good times. At the end of the summer, I went back to school and found myself missing my summer at the Barefoot Contessa. And nothing brought back the memories of my friends and experiences there like hearing Picture Book by Simply Red. So that's why I bought it and that's why I still own it. Plus -- I hate to say it -- the wife quite likes it. Best Bit: I don't care how much of a coolster punk rocker or hardened metalhead you are - if you can't acknowledge that "Holding Back the Years" is a lovely song, I weep for your cold, brittle stone of a heart.
....but yeah, otherwise, Mick Hucknall is a completely revolting prick.