Welcome back to 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die! This week, we’re looking at seven artists who appear on the list twice. It’s a rum collection, as you can see by the title: the only thing this septet has in common is their frequency on the list. Many of these we’ve met before: let’s see how they get on this week.
The Bee Gees, ‘Trafalgar’
The Bee Gees are enormously successful and had a career stretching over decades, helped along by regular cover versions of their work by acts like Take That and Boyzone. However, their best-known work is perhaps the ‘Saturday Night Fever’ soundtrack: in my head the Bee Gees are in those white suits and walking around to that killer ‘Staying Alive’ bassline. At the time of ‘Trafalgar’, though, that career resurgence was years off: this album came out in 1971 and still sounds like a 60s pop album, the sort of orchestra-heavy sound you might hear on, say, ‘Excerpts from a Teenage Opera’. Maybe it’s because the 60s were so long ago now, but it feels like a museum piece, while Robin’s tremulous voice I found hard to take seriously. The best song is the title track: it’s like ‘Abbey Road’ but with a lead guitar out of a Mike Oldfield record.
Fleetwood Mac, ‘Tusk’
Feeling constrained by the MOR hits of ‘Rumours‘, the Mac sprawled out a bit more on this double album. Stevie and Christine contribute much the same as they did on the previous album, but Lindsey’s tracks are where all the weirdness is: there’s clanking harpsichords, punkish bass (‘The Ledge’) and tracks that sound like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (‘Not That Funny’). It’s an unusual combination, more unpredictable than ‘Rumours’ and unsurprisingly less commercially successful. Well worth a listen, though.
Jane’s Addiction, ‘Ritual de lo Habitual’
Jane’s debut album, ‘Nothing’s Shocking‘, was a harrowing brood of a record which I enjoyed more than I was expecting. Listening to the first half of ‘Ritual’, you might think they’ve brightened up: the hard-rock tracks sound vaguely Chili Peppers, while the hit ‘Been Caught Stealing’ opens with dogs but revolves around its Bootsy Collins bassline. The darkness still gnaws at them, though: on the second half, Perry Farrell opens up about the heroin overdose death of his girlfriend Xiola Blue, aged just 19, and his mother, who committed suicide when Perry was just four. (Guitarist Dave Navarro also lost his mother early: she was murdered when he was 15.) The second half is darker and weirder musically, unsurprisingly: ‘Classic Girl’ is an odd combination of folk and raga-ish drone. I’m not sure this grabbed me like ‘Nothing’s Shocking’, but I’ve been caught offguard by how much I’ve enjoyed this act.
kd lang, ‘Ingenue’
“Where is your head, Kathryn?” Widening her scope beyond mere country and into cabaret, jazz and blues, lang was rewarded by the massive hit ‘Constant Craving’ which, unusually for a big breakthrough track, is the last track on the album. There’s something of a Gallic feel to this pleasant album, although I must admit my mind had wandered a few tracks before the finale.
Maybe it’s a surprise, maybe not, but there are two Sep albums on the list (I’ve heard ‘Roots’ already, so this is their only blog appearance). They gained a reputation in the 90s for groove metal, which brought them and Max Cavalera follow-up band Soulfly into the spectrum of nu-metal. That was still some years off at the time of ‘Arise’, though, which hints in that direction but which is generally a more familiar thrash sound in the same vibe as Metallica. I usually find thrash a bit of a drag, but at 42 minutes, this held the interest: ‘Dead Embryonic Cells’ is very good, while tacked-on European edition closer ‘Orgasmatron’ takes a one-note Black Sabbath track and turns it into something close to Ministry. Not bad.
Stephen Stills, ‘Stephen Stills’
Stills isn’t a complete stranger here on 1001 – in fact this year we’ve met him in Buffalo Springfield and in CS&N – but this is the first time we’ve covered his solo career. There’s a glittering variety of talent on show here: Jimi Hendrix, Ringo Starr, Booker T and Eric Clapton all pop in on session duty, while his other band’s Crosby and Nash make appearances on backing vocals. Yet while the soulful, gospel-flavoured tracks feel like an important early-70s album, I didn’t enjoy it very much. The most famous track here is ‘Love The One You’re With’, odd relationship politics aside, but the best track is ‘We Are Not Helpless’, the closer, with its sudden introduction of organ and tempo change. Stills appears a few more times on the list, with one more solo album and a CSN&Y album to cover before we complete the project.
Van Halen, ‘1984’
Expecting a boring metal album, I was converted immediately to the ridiculous kids-screwing-about fun of ‘Van Halen‘, so I was looking forward to ‘1984’. The biggest song on here is ‘Jump’, the best song is probably ‘I’ll Wait’, and both feature Eddie’s new favourite toy, the Oberheim synthesizer. The rest of the band weren’t too pleased with his burgeoning interest in synth-pop, which means half the album sounds like what Eddie wanted and the other half sounds like what the rest of them wanted. David Lee Roth felt Eddie was more effective on the guitar, and on this evidence I dare say I agree with them, at least artistically. Still, bolstered by ‘Jump’, this album sold zillions, so what do I know? While it kept me guessing in the same way ‘Van Halen’ does, ‘1984’ didn’t hit quite the same spots for me.
Next week: I’ve got a taste for it with that Jane’s album, so let’s listen to some more American rock and see where that gets us.
Status update: 875 listened to (88%), 126 remain.