Today’s seven is our final seven of the project, as we reach 1001/1001. It’s been a long journey, so thanks for reading and following my 30-month voyage through the list! Next week will be a more in-depth look at the best and worst of the adventure, so let’s get to the final albums on the list…
The Sonics, ‘Here Are The Sonics!!!’
The earliest of the albums regarded as proto-punk (it came out in 1964), this is essentially rock and roll standards played very fast, in a raw and aggressive way. It reminds me of the Jerry Lee Lewis album from the same year, with everything played at a billion miles an hour. There’s perhaps not enough momentum or variety for an entire album, but then it’s only 29 minutes long anyway. The Sonics were so young that when they disintegrated two years after this, it was because some members went to university. Feted by The Cramps and The Fall among others, The Sonics eventually reformed and are still touring now, albeit with only one original member.
Soul II Soul, ‘Club Classics Vol. One’
Nominally the Soul II Soul album with the hits on, although ‘Back To Life’ is only there on a technicality (it’s an a capella cut which was extensively reworked into the single version). It’s a smooth, classy version of 808-heavy soul music which is palatable if not exactly exciting. The worst thing about it is Jazzie B’s rapping: he rhymes like Des’ree and flows like Murray Head. Unfortunately, his vocals are so prominent that it’s difficult to take this album seriously; whenever someone else has the mic, the album’s quality improves dramatically.
Steely Dan, ‘Aja’
The final of four Steely Dan albums on the list, this one is almost a solo album by Donald Fagen, with Walter Becker mainly contributing guitar solos. As the band get smoother, they retain the quirky, sarcastic lyrics but lose the hooks and musical peculiarity that informs my favourite of theirs, ‘Can’t Buy A Thrill’. ‘Aja’ comprises of jazz-informed pop, with songs sprawling for seven or eight minutes. The best-known song here is perhaps ‘Deacon Blues’, the title of which named the Scottish 80s act.
Stereo MCs, ‘Connected’
I’d been putting this one off because it didn’t feel like it would be very good, and managed to successfully defer it until the very end. ‘Connected’ contains the band’s best known songs – the title track and ‘Step It Up’ – and it sort of sounds like a Golden Age of Hip-Hop record but in nonchalant British accents. It’s too long – it lasts nearly an hour – but better than I was expecting. Still, though, you don’t need this when there are other Golden Age albums on the list (De La Soul, Jungle Bros etc). The Stereo MCs couldn’t follow it up: burned out after touring this album from 1992 to 1994, they withdrew from performing for six years, eventually coming back in 2001 with the unlovely ‘Deep Down & Dirty’.
Talk Talk, ‘Colour of Spring’
I didn’t really know anything about Talk Talk before this album but it turns out that, at least here, they’re a sophisticated art-pop act with occasional experiments with piercing guitar lines that Mansun’s Chad was probably listening to. Considering some of the rough edges that get brought in – children’s choir on ‘Happiness is Easy’, amateur-hour recorder section on ‘Time It’s Time’ – it’s surprising that it sounds so smooth. Large swathes of it don’t demand attention, however.
Turbonegro, ‘Apocalypse Dudes’
With song titles like ‘Rendezvous With Anus’ and ‘Don’t Say Motherfucker, Motherfucker’ you can probably understand what this sounds like without having to listen to it. In case there’s any doubt, it’s a glammy punk record played at a frantic pace (they call it ‘deathpunk’). The tongue-in-cheek Swedish quintet foreshadowed the advent of compatriots The Hives and British mayflies The Darkness; much like them, the album is samey. It’s also weirdly trebly, either by accident or design.
ZZ Top, ‘Tres Hombres’
And of course, the final album is ZZ Top, the band at the end of the alphabet (although there is a Dutch rock duo called zZz). I’ve reviewed them before and wasn’t impressed at the phony trappings of ‘Eliminator‘. Here, we’re earlier in the band’s career – they didn’t even have the massive beards – and as you’d expect from the title, it’s a more authentic record of the trio playing together. It often sounds like a well-produced blues album: specifically, the John Lee Hooker influences are strong on ‘La Grange’, although there’s also a harmonies-laden waltz called ‘Hot, Blue and Righteous’. Not bad; certainly not a low point to go out on. I listened to the 2006 remaster, which was a salvage job restoring the original mix; the version that was issued on CD in the mid-80s (and from then on) was a much-loathed digital remix.
Next week: I’ll be rounding up some of the highlights and lowlights of the project, and my views on the list in general. This will probably contain a lot of lists, because I like lists of albums (can you tell?)
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