Tuesday, July 27, 2010


54. The Velvet Underground

The Velvet Underground is known best for the reverberations it has caused. No serious rock connoisseur has a complete collection without them.

The Velvet Underground and Nico was a definite watershed. It was miles away from the other most important release of 1967: Sgt. Peppers. Nico may have the last laugh, however. The inspiration and new directions some musicians took following the Velvets lead to the music that would arise in the Beatles' aftermath.

Key track: Heroin, 1967, which has Lou Reed being so frank as to underscore the 'underground' aspect of their act.


53. Metallica

Metal is now considered respectable, in large part, to Metallica. Whether that is a benefit to the genre is debatable.

Metallica's musicianship helped make metal less of a peculiar sub-genre and brought it into household vernacular. Most Americans, if asked to name a metal band, would first think of Metallica. And that's not a bad thing: that same musicianship helped revitalize rock with some much needed energy at a critical moment.

Key track: Enter Sandman, 1991 which launched them into international stardom.


52. Public Enemy

Of hip hop acts in the 80s there are many fine choices to choose from: yet Public Enemy is the one which sounds least grounded in the 80s.

It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back is one of the peaks of the whole genre. Let's be honest: before Illmatic it was the peak. Chuck D and Flavor Flav were a weird duo: D would bring a steady stream of politically-conscious truth bombs, and Flav... "I don't know what he brings, but he brings something" D rightly stated. Their influence is practically second to none.

Key track: Bring the Noise, 1987 which has D responding to critics who said hip hop was 'just noise'.


51. Frank Zappa

Zappa was to music what Mort Sahl was to comedy. Although I'm not sure he'd appreciate the comparison to the cardigan-wearing comic.

To Zappa's credit he was much stranger than Sahl: they did not run in the same circles. But the need to expose and turn a mirror on society was what links their endeavors. Zappa's mirror, though, was of the fun house variety. He also was a master guitarist and had some interesting studio chops, leading to some of the most experimental, artful and fantastic music of the century.

Key track: Trouble Every Day, 1966 which lead to the creation of the first concept album, Freak Out!


50. The Grateful Dead

The Dead have long since passed from musical act to experience. The fact that Deadheads still are looking for rare track is a testament in its own.

The Dead practically invented the concert jam. In the studio they displayed beautiful little standard folk-rock songs. Live they whipped them into half-hour behemoths. To my knowledge they're the second biggest act ever inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with a dozen people. Anyone who contributed to their experiment deserved recognition.

Bands like Phish will be forever indebted to the Dead's particular brand of musical experiment. They not only created new paths in musical recognition and experience, but they formed a whole American sub-genre of people.

Key tracks: Friend of the Devil, 1970, and Turn On Your Love Light, 1969, which show off their studio and live prowess.

Friend of the Devil

Turn on Your Love Light
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RU52FNuhOwM and part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g51tFVdEj2g

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