Karla and I and at least one reader have a friend named April who works for Warner Bros Records (oo-la-la). April is a pretty ok kid and has proven especially good at nabbing us free, cheap and/or otherwise unobtainable tickets to various sold out and/or secret shows over the years for bands we like on the WB and subsidiaries roster. For at least two years now there has been a “secret” sale where WB puts out their surplus CDs, t-shirts and random swag for super cheap. And when I say super I mean $1 per CD. So suck on that, Great Escape. The first day is for employees only but day two is for friends and family and this year Karla and I (and JT) made the cut. Whew! What we got was 24 CDs and one DVD (on accident) for $30. Again I say, suck on that, Great Escape.
To say that I, rather we were like kids in a candy shop is an understatement. I mean they give you a box to load up all your booty in and then say have at it. And have at it we did. You’d have been surprised at what all was available, everything from Eric Clapton to My Chemical Romance, and unfortunately the stuff I was most excited to see (e.g. Led Zeppelin I) I already owned. However, I was able to pick up a number of things that I’d been interested in but had never gotten around to purchasing, etc, etc, and with a few we took chances on what we knew may or may not be a bomb, plus a couple of guilty pleasures and plenty of best ofs for nostalgia (and likely re-gifting). I mean when you’re only paying $1 a disc, why not? And did I mention all proceeds went to Habitat for Humanity? Step up to the plate, Great Escape!
Of course the problem with purchasing two-dozen discs all at once is what to listen to first. Also, when you’re a working dad/mom, you don’t really have a lot of time to indulge yourself in a day’s plus worth of music. But over the past week we’ve done what we can and touched on a good deal of them. I’ve had some very pleasant surprises, a walk or two down memory lane and of course the occasional (and expected) eye roll here and there. While I’ve gotten a couple of ideas for future posts where I may flesh out my views of some of these albums, I’ll divulge the entire list (warts and all) with a few thoughts where applicable.
One. Chicago: Chicago IX—Chicago's Greatest Hits (1975): When Karla picked up not one or two but THREE Chicago collections I thought that was a bit of indulgence. I mean how many sources for You’re the Inspiration do you need? But then I noticed that one was the first greatest hits from back in the 70s, aka when Chicago was “good” or at least tolerable. We recently saw the original members of Chicago on the Chris Isaak Hour and it was a good, so I was sorta excited to give the album a spin and did so early on. Well, I was more than a little underwhelmed (I can just hear Bill say "No kidding..."). Sure, tunes like 25 or 6 to 4 and Only the Beginning are pretty jammin’ (not rockin’), but I got lost in the pomp of these songs. The best of overindulgence is still overindulgence.
Two. Chicago: The Very Best of Chicago—Only the Beginning (2002): Lord, I was hoping they were close to retirement. This one is allegedly going to Karla’s sister as a gift. Well, get the wrapping paper out already!
Three. Chicago: Love Songs (2005): Gag.
Four. Crosby, Stills & Nash: CSN (1977): I’m not a huge fan of anything Crosby-related (the Byrds got WAY better after he left), but Karla asked me if this one was any good. I guess technically I should at least know if it’s critically acclaimed regardless of if it strikes my fancy, and so when I checked out the date and saw it was still solidly within the 70s, I thought it was a safe bet. The first impression? So-so…Karla didn’t much like it at all, but I saw it as an album that was very aggressive in the sense that it was trying lots of different styles via the hokey, three part harmony that only CS&N can deliver.
Five. Crosby, Stills & Nash: Daylight Again (1982): Firmly in the 80s, I’m ultra wary of this album. Those cheesed up pics of the band on the back (Crosby with a kitten on his shoulder no less) don’t really help the cause. And yet…I’m drawn to this album, as if it might be some long lost gem of my heart that simply needs to be discovered. We’ll see.
Six. Flaming Lips: Soft Bulletin (1999): Again, not a big FL fan, but don’t hate them either. Karla wanted this one and I’ve always thought the cover was cool and I know it got a lot of hype back in the day (10 years ago, I know…), so I figured it would be decent. And it is…decent. After three or so listens my favorite track is some pulse beat ambient type deal somewhere near the middle. This one is actually the dual disc reissue from a few years back, so…SCORE(?).
Seven. Fleetwood Mac: Tusk (1979): Being the rather heavy F-Mac fan that I am and given this album’s experimental notoriety, I’m rather surprised I didn’t already own it. But I didn’t, so there. I’d heard a good deal of the songs here but for the first time it was within context. I don’t really see why this album was seen as such a departure. Sure, there are a couple of things going on that are “different,” but overall it’s just an extra long album of stinkin’ good to stinkin’ great Fleetwood Mac tunes. Definitely in the top 3 picks of the trip. The fact that this is the dual disc reissue is just like bonus gravy on top of my whipped cream and cherry.
Eight. Foreigner: Complete Greatest Hits—2002: I rolled my eyes when Karla showed me this one, but I have to admit to having a very soft spot for I Wanna Know What Love Is (which Karla poo-pooed) and Yesterday, and Jukebox Hero was a bit of an anthem for me as a young boy aspiring to one day be a musician. Karla asked me if it was a double disc and I laughed. A lot. But really, some of the “rockers” from their earlier years are pretty ok and seriously, Bill, listen to me here…the song Girl on the Moon is surprisingly great. I mean it.
Nine. Genesis: Invisible Touch (1986): This was a definite nostalgic purchase and the first one we listened to in the car on the way back to work (well, I just went home and goofed off with Fox). I had this on vinyl and Karla had it on cassette and I think we both enjoyed this 2007 (again dual disc) enhanced version. This is definitely an album where the non-singles are the best of the pack, especially the two-part, old school rant Domino.
Ten. Gothic Archies: The Tragic Treasury (2006): One of the WOO-HOO picks of the day, I’m not a fan of the Lemony Snicket series, but I do dig me some Stephin Merritt in any of his many guises and it’s nice to hear his dreary take on love and romance shifted on to other topics.
Eleven. Laugh a Little: 15 Silly Songs for Little Ones (2007): We got this for Fox. He’s too young to care right now.
Twelve. Linda Rondstadt: Greatest Hits (1976): I think this is going to Karla’s mom. I know I’m not going to listen to it.
Thirteen. Lindsey Buckingham: Under the Skin (2006): Again, a decent Fleetwood Mac fan, even if I do lean towards the pre-Buckingham/Nicks era, I still enjoy and appreciate their contribution to the legacy. I’d heard that Lindsey’s 2006 “comeback” deal pointed to the ambition of earlier solo stuff like Go Insane and even to Tusk and while I did get to hear it once in the background, I never got a good feel for it. I still haven’t had a chance, but it’s coming…oh, it’s coming…
Fourteen. Madonna: Like a Virgin (1984): A definite nostalgic/guilty pleasure purchase, it’s worth a buck just for the song Angel. We listened to this album on Memorial Day whilst driving around town and I was really shocked at how familiar much of the album was, even the non-singles. Makes me wonder where I really was in 84…
Fifteen. Magnetic Fields: Distortion (2008): The other “jump up and down” purchase, and of course S. Merritt’s main moniker. I’d been given a burned copy of it (sssh, I won’t say who) and thought it was ok. Having the real deal always seems to enhance the experience. I haven’t made a final judgment yet, and oftentimes his albums have to grow on you (such is his genius), but I did enjoy it quite a bit more.
Sixteen. Neil Young: Living with War (2006): Neil has put out a slue of albums in recent years and the title alone of this one was enough to make me shy away. I’m just not into overt politics in my music. But it’s Neil Young and it’s a dollar, so there you have it. We put it in last night and both thought it was pretty darn great. Reading up on it, makes me wish he wrote and recorded more albums in just nine days.
Seventeen. Old 97’s: Hit By a Train—The Best of Old 97’s (2006): We have no use for this thing whatsoever as we own all the albums, but Karla wanted it, so…there you go.
Eighteen. Phil Collins: Love Songs—A Compilation Old and New (2004): I have no excuse for this one besides the fact that I’m married to a girl.
Nineteen. Play a Little: 15 Action Songs for Little Ones (2007): See previous “for Fox” entry.
Twenty. Roy Acuff: Greatest Hits (2007): This is about as I expected. Some knock off, cash in, whatever release that doesn’t really do anything more than provide some good songs with no cohesiveness at varying levels of quality.
Twenty-one. Sweeney Todd: OST (2007): I know the music and songs are great ‘cos it’s Sondheim and the original Broadway cast production is my all-time favorite of musicals. I never saw the Tim Burton take and heard mixed reviews on the performances, but again, for the price it’s worth a shot. I’ll get around to it…
Twenty-two. Talking Heads: Remain in Light (1980): I made a big deal one time about not being interested in any TH albums after the second one (More Songs About Buildings and Food), even if several were produced by Eno. But again, for a dollar it was worth a go and it’s a fine album I guess, especially closer The Overlord, but I honestly preferred the “incomplete” bonus tracks at the end of the disc.
Twenty-three. Tom Petty: Highway Companion (2006): It really just seemed like a few months ago that I was reading up on this album, so I was sorta dismayed when I saw that it came out three years ago. However, I was NOT dismayed when I put the disc in. It got a full (and unprecedented) five spins in a row before being changed out. It’s that good…and more on that later.
Twenty-four. Wilco: Kicking Television—Live in Chicago (2005): This one is getting gifted ‘cos Wilco is boooooring…
Check back soon for the next random release...