Thursday, October 20, 2005

Neil Young - Prairie Wind (2005)

Neil Young's latest CD, Prairie Wind, could be named Harvest, Volume 3 and that would be just fine with me. It's tempo, mood, and execution are in the vein of both 1972's classic Harvest, and 1992's Harvest Moon. Fans of Young's quieter music will find Prairie Wind to their liking even though, as with most sequels, it doesn't, and can't possibly live up to its two wonderful predecessors.

Prairie Wind finds Young waxing nostalgic far more than one would expect from someone of his stature. We find him singing about Elvis Presley on "He Was The King" and about his recently deceased father on the title cut: "Trying to remember what my daddy said, before too much time took away his head. He said we're going back and I'll show you what I'm talking about, going back to Cypress River, back to the old farmhouse." They are the type of sentiments that ring true with fans but seldom with critics, and that may be why the press is giving Prairie Wind positive but not the stellar reviews it deserves.

In addition to Young's electric and acoustic guitars, as well as his harmonica, there are dobros, fiddles, a gospel chorus on "When God Made Me," and a tasteful horn section on three tracks.

Overall, this is the kind of music Neil Young does best and I'm happy he returned to its virtues once again. Three stars out of four.

Monday, October 17, 2005

WXPN's 885 Greatest Albums Of All Time - The Final Countdown

It has been almost three weeks since WXPN began their countdown of the 885 greatest albums of all time as voted on by their listeners. It all ended today as the station counted down albums ten through one. There were lots of surprises and some obvious choices.

Here is the final official countdown as it appears on the WXPN website.

Only three albums on my list, those by Black 47, Mark Knopfler, and Michelle Shocked, failed to make the list. Here are how my picks fared. A red number indicates where they finished on WXPN's list.

1. Abbey Road - The Beatles #1. There were five Beatles albums that were sure things to make the Top 885 and, since none of the five were played when only ten albums remained, you knew Abbey Road had to be among them. I wasn't sure where it would place in the top ten but I never believed it would finish #1. A total of ten Beatles albums made the list.

2. Pet Sounds - The Beach Boys: #21. I expected and wanted a higher finish for this album but The Beach Boys only entry on the list is still loved by a whole lot of people.

3. Chicago Transit Authority - Chicago Transit Authority: #437. I'm surprised that WXPN listeners would vote for any Chicago album so the fact that CTA placed this high, and its followup Chicago II charted at #664, thrilled me no end. Maybe their listeners are more mainstream than they appear.

4. Trouble In The Land - Black 47: Failed to make the list. I knew this CD would never appear on the list due to its non-existent radio airplay, the fact that the band's appeal is limited, and their fan base is small.

5. Running On Empty - Jackson Browne: #241. I was correct in thinking that both Late For the Sky at #73 and The Pretender, #193, would finish higher than my favorite but I still love this unique Jackson Browne album.

6. Local Hero - Mark Knopfler: Failed to make the list. This is another album that I knew didn't have a chance even though both Knopfler and Dire Straits placed several entries on the top 885.

7. Every Picture Tells A Story - Rod Stewart: #184. You were so cool at one time. What happened to you Rod? This is a very respectable showing considering I believed that Stewart's later work would affect the voter's feelings about this excellent album.

8. Arkansas Traveler - Michelle Shocked: Failed to make the list. I know Michelle is really "out there" but her first three major label albums (This one is the third) are among the best singer-songwriter albums ever made. The singer deserves much more recognition than she now receives. I'm glad I got to see her play live and meet her after the concert.

9. Aja - Steely Dan: #30. This is the highest finishing Dan album on the list but somehow I thought it would be higher.

10. Crosby, Stills, and Nash: #74. Considering the impact and the popularity of this album in 1969 I can't believe it finished this low.

Some of my other very favorite albums that made the Top 885 and were considered for my Top 10 are:

The Beatles (aka: The White Album) - The Beatles #6
Revolver - The Beatles #9
After The Gold Rush - Neil Young #32
Car Wheels In A Gravel Road - Lucinda Williams #46
Songs In The Key Of Life - Stevie Wonder #54
John Barleycorn Must Die - Traffic #138
The Last Waltz - The Band #147
Time Out - The Dave Brubek Quartet #203
Lucinda Williams - Lucinda Williams #227
Child Is Father To The Man - Blood, Sweat and Tears #267
Kiko - Los Lobos #288
Talking Book - Stevie Wonder #333
Songs In The Attic - Billy Joel #528

Pleasant surprises that made the list are four other Billy Joel albums and Puzzle by Dada #732.

Finally, I will never understand the fans fascination with the Beastie Boys or any other rappers, Joni Mitchell (blasphemy on my part for sure), David Bowie, Guns 'N Roses, The Counting Crows and Radiohead. Will someone explain all of these people to me?

Saturday, October 15, 2005

David Dye's Tribute to Ed Sciaky

Ed Sciaky, second from left, with some very famous friends at WMMR
A few months back I posted a tribute written by Jonathan Takiff about legendary Philadelphia disc jockey Ed Sciaky. Here is an even more moving tribute from the WXPN Music Blog posted by the station's own David Dye titled What Is Regionalism?

David Dye worked with Ed Sciaky for many years at both WMMR, 93.3 FM, and later at WIOQ, 102.1 FM. Both stations were top outlets in 1970's Philadelphia alternative radio.