Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Air: Pocket Symphony (Astralwerks, 2007) Even when they're settling for atmosphere, meaning not bothering with moon tunes, Air are too corny for chillout. All they're good for is fromage, which we in Dollarland call cheese--amusing dinner music. And though on 2004's Talkie Walkie they lifted themselves out of the lukewarm miasma that had enveloped them since Moon Safari, Pocket Symphony reverts to the textured beat-and-bassline rifflets of Air ordinaire. Does some mild theme-and-variation justify the title? With these themes, who can remember? What you remember is that both male synth whizzes sing--though note that on the foggiest verbiage, e.g. "burnt-out husk of the morning," the likes of Jarvis Cocker do the dirty work. [unknown: 2.5]

Air: Talkie Walkie (Astralwerks, 2004) Those French, so subversive with their Nissan commercials ("Surfing on a Rocket," "Alpha Beta Gaga"). [unknown]

The Band: The Band (Capitol, 1969) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Buju Banton: Too Bad (Gargamel, 2006) For him, dancehall is roots reggae, to which he returns none too soon ("Me & Oonu," "Jig"). **

The Beach Boys: Endless Summer (Capitol, 1974) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

The Beach Boys: Smiley Smile (Capitol, 1967) In the year of Pepper-mania, the Beach Boys' Smile was expected to gallop out of the west and reclaim the honor of rock for its nation of origin. But Smile didn't materialize until 2004, stitched together from old bits and pieces and revived as repertory by a solo Brian Wilson and his enablers. Instead, Wilson retreated into his lonely room and oversaw this hastily recorded half-measure--"a bunt instead of a grand slam," groused Carl. Towering it's not; some kind of hit it is. Without this product-on-demand, we'd lack such impossible trifles as the wiggy "She's Goin' Bald," the potted "Little Pad," and "Fall Breaks and Back to Winter," a transitional bagatelle featuring squeezebox and imitation woodpecker. [Rolling Stone: The 40 Essential Albums of 1967]

The Beatles: The Beatles' Second Album (Capitol, 1964) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

The Beatles: The Early Beatles (Capitol, 1965) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

The Beatles: Love (Apple/Capitol, 2006) George Martin was a great producer precisely insofar as he was the Beatles' producer. His other great discovery was America, and nobody compares him to Christopher Columbus, so why mention him alongside Jerry Wexler or Timbaland? Praise Lennon-McCartney, then, that this Martin-produced soundscape for a Cirque du Soleil extravaganza is so LOVEly--the suite side of Abbey Road extended to 78 minutes. Only six titles, including a fan-enhanced live snatch of "I Want to Hold Your Hand," are pre-1966, with Rubber Soul reduced to 30 seconds of "The Word," and even in the late catalogue, Martin highlights the sweet, cute, and orchestral--no "Yer Blues," "You Never Give Me Your Money," or "Why Don't We Do It in the Road." Trivialities like "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite" and "Octopus's Garden" are on full display, while "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" briefly signifies a chaos that inspires cries of "Help" and is quickly righted by "Blackbird/Yesterday." Nevertheless, the trickery is great fun from the choral, tweet-tweaked "Because" to a "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" more forthright than the original. And always another great melody waits in the wings, ready to take you higher. These melodies weren't all or even most of what the Beatles gave the world. But only rockist sentimentalists dismiss the Apollonian detachment of the world's greatest rock and roll band's late period. Played too often, this version of the world's greatest rock and roll band could give a person a tummyache. But as desserts go, it's got some spice. [Rolling Stone: 3.5]

The Beatles: Magical Mystery Tour (Capitol, 1967) Because it begins with the lame theme to their worst movie and the sappy "Fool on the Hill," few realize that this serves up three worthy obscurities forthwith--bet Beck knows the sour-and-sweet instrumental "Flying" by heart. Then it collects the A and B sides of three fabulous singles. "Penny Lane"/"Strawberry Fields Forever" may be the finest two-sided record in history. Goo goo ga joob, so may "Hello Goodbye"/"I Am the Walrus." "Baby You're a Rich Man"? OK, not in that league. Which is why it bows humbly before "All You Need Is Love." [Rolling Stone: The 40 Essential Albums of 1967]

The Beatles: Meet the Beatles! (Capitol, 1964) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

The Beatles: Rubber Soul (Capitol, 1965) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

The Beatles: Something New (Capitol, 1964) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Beirut: Lon Gisland (Ba Da Bing! EP, 2006) Zach Condon is that truly rare thing, an American--in fact, a very young American--who turns a foreign style to his own inauthentic uses without doing it dirt. Gypsy brass as he hears it is gorgeously lyrical because lyricism is his thing, and so he softens the three horns on this EP not just with idiomatic accordion but with ukulele and glockepnspiel. The trumpets are also cushy, establishing a comfort level his melodies earn. The worrisome part is that his lyrics are kind of soft too. [Rolling Stone 3.5]

Chuck Berry: Chuck Berry's Golden Decade (Chess, 1972) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

Chuck Berry: Chuck Berry's Golden Decade Volume II (Chess, 1972) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

Chuck Berry: The Great Twenty-Eight (Chess, 1982) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Beyoncé: Beyoncé (Columbia, 2013) [2013 Dean's List: 18]

Big Brother and the Holding Company: Big Brother & the Holding Company (Columbia, 1967) Janis Joplin's first band is still dissed for its crude musicianship, and its pre-Columbia album is still patronized for failing to showcase Joplin the blues singer. Only she wasn't a blues singer, she was a rock singer--a rock singer who learned to conceal her country twang after she cut these ten crazee songs. Most are by her bandmates, whose folk-schooled garage-blues licks provide goofy hooks. One that isn't is the definitive Joplin original "Women Is Losers." She sensed what was coming--you know she did. [Rolling Stone: The 40 Essential Albums of 1967]

Bobby Bland: The Best of Bobby Bland (Duke, 1967) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

Bobby Bland: The Best of Bobby Bland, Vol. 1 (MCA, 1990) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

James Brown: Cold Sweat (King, 1967) The modal title milestone one-upped Wilson Pickett's "Funky Broadway" and introduced JB's funky drummer number two, Clyde Stubblefield. The uptempo oldies Brown added to the hit to make an album--Lloyd Prince's "Stagger Lee," Wilbert Harrison's "Kansas City," Little Willie John's "Fever," and Roy Brown's "Good Rockin' Tonight"--smelled a little fishy at the time. Now, however, they're caviar--JB's full voice and flawless time yoking proven classics to some of the tightest big-band blues ever recorded. The slow side pits Brown's ballad falsetto and ballad scream against some of the most elaborate r&b strings ever recorded. Especially on the two Nat King Cole numbers and an over-the-top "Come Rain or Come Shine," the falsetto wins by a mile. [Rolling Stone: The 40 Essential Albums of 1967]

James Brown: The James Brown Story: Ain't That a Groove 1966-1969 (Polydor, 1984) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

James Brown: The James Brown Story: Doin' It to Death 1970-1973 (Polydor, 1984) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

James Brown: Live at the Apollo (Polydor, 1990) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

James Brown: "Live" at the Apollo Volume II (King, 1968) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

James Brown: Roots of a Revolution (Polydor, 1984) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

James Brown: Solid Gold: 30 Golden Hits (Polydor, 1986) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Buffalo Springfield: Buffalo Springfield (Atco, 1966) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

T-Bone Burnett: Twenty Twenty: The Essential T Bone Burnett (Columbia/DMZ/Legacy, 2006) This Texan prodigy has long enjoyed an impeccable reputation among his colleagues: Bob Dylan tourmate, productions for everyone from Elvis Costello to Counting Crows, close personal husband of singer-songwriter Sam Phillips, O Brother, Where Art Thou? Grammy mastermind. So why hasn't he developed any kind of audience, not even a true cult? Because for both a roots guy and a Christian guy (converted Dylan, some say), he seems like a cold son of a bitch. Burnett's disdain for commercial culture may emulate Jesus and the money changers, but it also flatters the folkie puritans who dig him. The intelligence of these 40 songs is manifest, and they do stick in the mind. But they're so short on signs of soul that their spiritual quest is unlikely to engage anyone new. [Blender: 3]

The Byrds: The Byrds' Greatest Hits (Columbia, 1967) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

The Byrds: The Byrds Sing Dylan (Columbia/Legacy, 2002) Back in the mythic '60s, the Byrds got rich off Bob Dylan and made him richer in the bargain: "Mr Tambourine Man" was their first hit and his second, after Peter, Paul & Mary's "Blowin' in the Wind." The Byrds's world-turning folk-rock chime added trippy texture to "All I Really Want to Do" and "My Back Pages," and on 1968's Sweetheart of the Rodeo they deadpanned a definitive "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere." But no one has any need for Roger McGuinn's dull interpretations of "Just Like a Woman" and "Lay Lady Lay." Not for nothing is this man now plying the folk circuit. You want great Dylan covers, remember this title: Lo and Behold!, by forgotten folk-rockers Coulson, Dean, McGuinness, Flint, from the less mythic '70s. [unknown: 3]

The Byrds: The Notorious Byrd Brothers (Columbia, 1968) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

The Byrds: Sweetheart of the Rodeo (Columbia, 1968) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Ray Charles: The Birth of a Legend 1949-1952 (Ebony, 1994) If you crave Ray Charles's early sides, the blues scholar in you will only achieve full satisfaction with this neat, complete double-CD. The piano pleases, the singing develops, and the songwriting tops out with the jocose "Kissa Me Baby." Soon he'll flower. But Nat King Cole and Charles Brown worked the same lounge-trio vein with far more flair. [Rolling Stone]

Ray Charles: The Birth of Soul: The Complete Atlantic Rhythm & Blues Recordings, 1952-1959 (Atlantic, 1991) Although Charles's fabled blues-gospel synthesis is on display from "I Got a Woman" to "I Believe to My Soul," "birth of soul" gets the emphasis wrong. Seldom conventionally catchy, never teen-oriented, this collection epitomizes a world-historic catchall of a genre that Charles could only describe as "genuine down-to-earth Negro music"--namely, rhythm and blues. Crack bands, first Atlantic's and then his own, underpin his rich, gravelly vocals with hard-hitting grooves of deceptive rhythmic and harmonic complexity. Halfway in, a female backup group soon to be known as the Raeletts starts shoring his male voice up and egging it on, an innovation that became a cliche so fast people think it was always there. [Rolling Stone]

Ray Charles: Blues + Jazz (Rhino, 1994) Jazz chops helped define Charles's singular pop identity, and he both articulated and stimulated an appetite for "soul jazz." He was a tastier soloist than such vamp merchants as Les McCann. But a pantheon jazzman he was not, and only vibraphone connoisseurs will savor all of his renowned Milt Jackson collaborations (available in toto on Soul Brothers/Soul Meeting). Highlighting combo interactions far from the big-band bombast of its dreadful opposite number, Genius + Soul = Jazz/My Kind of Jazz, the artfully configured jazz disc here includes sessions led by Charles's longtime saxophonist Fathead Newman, who did more with his jazz concept than its inventor. Charles even plays alto sax on a few cuts--damn well, for a few cuts. Redundant or not, the blues disc goes down just as smooth, epitomizing a perfect mix of downhome and citified the way the jazz one does a perfect mix of unintellectual and uncorny. Throw up your hands and buy a bunch of songs twice (or thrice). [Rolling Stone]

Ray Charles: Complete Country & Western Recordings 1959-1986 (Rhino, 1998) The two Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music albums--volume one magnificent, volume two patchier--occupy disc one of this four-CD set. The remainder comprises desirables from the Atlantic Hank Snow cover "I'm Movin' On" to the Columbia George Jones collab "We Didn't See a Thing"; dubious follow-up country LPs; left-field covers and songwriter paybacks that better suit their original albums when they connect at all; and uneven (not to mention, for shame given the title boast, incomplete) product from Charles's Nashville foray on Columbia in the '80s. But inevitably, the box also features magnificent obscurities: bluesified "Ring of Fire," George Jones-worthy "A Girl I Used to Know," hee-hawing "3/4 Time," now available for your own cherry-picking pleasure. [Rolling Stone]

Ray Charles: The Early Years (King, 1978) Probably the best one-disc selection of Ray Charles's infinitely recycled pre-Atlantic output--no one knows for sure because no one has heard them all, most certainly including Charles and his handlers, who most certainly resented and resent the marketing bonanza offered by these casual and quite often forgettable blues-lite tunes, some cut in Seattle before he as 20--which their proprietors apparently rent out to anybody who comes up with a few grand at the right moment. [Rolling Stone]

Ray Charles: Greatest Hits: Vol. 1 (Rhino, 1988) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Ray Charles: Greatest Hits: Vol. 2 (Rhino, 1988) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Ray Charles: Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music (Rhino, 1962) So much more than proof we no longer need that an African-American can sing country music, this CD did nothing less than redefine American pop. Sonically bolder (and schlockier) than, for instance, Owen Bradley's proto-countrypolitan Patsy Cline productions, its massed strings, horns, and choruses broke down the walls between classic Tin Pan Alley and declasse Nashville. In the world it created, not only could a black person sing the American songbook Ella Fitzgerald owned by then, but a country black person could take it over. Soon Charles's downhome diction, cotton-field grit, cornpone humor, and overstated shows of emotion were standard operating procedure in American music black and white. [Rolling Stone]

Ray Charles: Ray Charles' Greatest Hits (ABC, 1962) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

Ray Charles: Sweet & Sour Tears (Rhino, 1964) Tops among Rhino's ABC reissues is this concept album about crying overseen by Charles's longtime string arrange Sid Feller, who also gave the world the Jackie Gleason makeout albums of the '50s. Clearly, Feller was made for the theme, augmented on this CD by otherwise unavailable bonus cuts that fit right in: "Teardrops in My Heart," "Drown in My Own Tears," even "Tired of My Tears." No need to worry about that last one, folks--he's only kidding. [Rolling Stone]

Ray Charles: What'd I Say (Atlantic, 1959) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

Ray Charles & Friends: Super Hits (Columbia/Legacy, 1998) In a former life the not-bad-at-all 1985 duet album Friendship, where Ricky Skaggs and Hank Williams Jr. attain glories beyond the reach of Janie Fricke and the Oak Ridge Boys but almost everybody at least believes there's an occasion to rise to. [Rolling Stone]

The Clash: The Clash (CBS, 1977) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

The Clovers: Five Cool Cats (Edsel, 1984) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

The Clovers: Their Greatest Recordings: The Early Years (Atco, 1971) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

The Coasters: Their Greatest Recordings: The Early Years (Atco, 1971) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

The Coasters: Young Blood (Atlantic, 1982) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Sam Cooke: The Legendary Sam Cooke (RCA, 1974) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

Sam Cooke: The Man and His Music (RCA Victor, 1986) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Creedence Clearwater Revival: Chronicle (Fantasy, 1976) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Culture: Two Sevens Clash: The 30th Anniversary Edition (Shanachie, 2007) Two Sevens Clash may have been the best reggae LP ever released--Bob Marley himself never constructed one so perfect beginning to end. Though much is made of its political content, it's really a Rastafarian gospel album. "The wicked must fall," Hill declares right off, and "Pirate Days" attributes Babylon's power to its lawlessness. But that song's most striking line, "The Arawak the Arawak the Arawak were here first," is an argument that black men don't belong in Jamaica--an argument for the promised return to Africa. In "Natty Dread Taking Over," "Fire 'pon dem" invokes not gunplay but the Book of Revelation, and celebrating the Black Starliner Garvey predicted would bring the faithful back to Africa, Hill avers: "I meekly wait and murmur not." Proof of deliverance is in the music. This was Jamaican drum titan Sly Dunbar's first major session, with Lloyd Parks on bass and Robbie Shakespeare on guitar, and the tunes are memorable and uplifting without exception. Yet even on the childish "Jah Pretty Face," the flinty, soursop edge of Hill's incantation sands off what's left of the sing-song after the harsh close trio harmonies have done their work. Its bonus cuts worthy archival remixes, this reissue is reordered to conform to the original Jamaican release, timed to coincide with Armagideon time--July 7 of 1977, the year the two sevens clashed. [Rolling Stone: 5]

Dead Moon: Echoes of the Past (Sub Pop, 2006) Oregonian Fred Cole has been in bands for forty-two years--cover, psychedelic, bubbglegum, show, country, a punk band called the Rats. He's also been with his wife Toody for thirty-nine. Fred, bassist Toody, and drummer Andrew Loomis formed the garage-rock Dead Moon in 1987. Postpunks who come to '60s garage grunge naturally because they were there, they sound like the 13th Floor Elevators without the clinical dementia. Caterwauling Fred is the chief singer, the defiance of convention his signature theme: "Pissed off, pissed off, pissed off/It's just the way I am." Toody provides changes of color--there's more variety in her dozen or so songs than in Fred's lion's share. Dead Moon make a good living touring Europe and have self-released six vinyl and seven forty-fives, which this double-CD cherry-picks. Though these 49 songs could be winnowed into an intense single CD, that would sacrifice their impressive sprawl factor. Not many guitar-bass-drums units generate so much remarkable material. Not many great stories come with such a good band attached. [Rolling Stone: 3.5]

Bo Diddley: Got My Own Bag of Tricks (Chess, 1972) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

Bo Diddley: His Greatest Sides, Vol. 1 (Chess, 1984) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Dion and the Belmonts: 24 Original Classics (Arista, 1984) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Fats Domino: The Best of Fats Domino (EMI, 1987) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Fats Domino: Fats Domino Jukebox: 20 Greatest Hits the Way You Originally Heard Them (Capitol, 2002) If rock is a music of voices and guitars, its New Orleans variant is a music of pianos and drums. It rocks, sure, but people love it for the way it rolls. Its friendliest exponent is charter Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Antoine Domino, who scored more pop hits in the '50s than anyone except Elvis, Pat Boone, and Perry Como. Every one shows up on the solidly enjoyable "They Call Me the Fat Man . . . ." box. But the best are concentrated on this cheap little party record--a surprisingly intense one, given the sweet lassitude of Fats's drawl. Break your own heart--put on "Walking to New Orleans." [Rolling Stone]

Fats Domino: Fats Domino: Legendary Masters Series (United Artists, 1971) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Donovan: Donovan's Greatest Hits (Epic, 1969) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

The Drifters: The Drifters' Golden Hits (Atlantic, 1968) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

The Drifters: Golden Hits (Atlantic, 1969) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

The Drifters: Their Greatest Recordings: The Early Years (Atco, 1971) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Bob Dylan: Blonde on Blonde (Columbia, 1966) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Bob Dylan: Bringing It All Back Home (Columbia, 1965) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Bob Dylan: The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (Columbia, 1963) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Bob Dylan: Highway 61 Revisited (Columbia, 1965) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Bob Dylan: John Wesley Harding (Columbia, 1968) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Bob Dylan: Nashville Skyline (Columbia, 1969) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Eminem: The Marshall Mathews LP 2 (Deluxe Edition) (Aftermath, 2013) [2013 Dean's List: 7]

The Everly Brothers: The Best of the Everly Brothers (Rhino, 1986) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

The Everly Brothers: History of the Everly Brothers (Barnaby, 1973) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

The Everly Brothers: Roots (Warner Bros., 1968) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Fanfare Ciocarlia: Gili Garabdi (Asphalt Tango, 2005) As professional a wedding band as you'll ever hear, including the James Bond theme and a couple of horas ("Godzilla," "Moldavian Mood") [unknown]

Sky Ferreira: Night Time, My Time (Capitol, 2013) [2013 Dean's List: 36]

The "5" Royales: The Five Royales (King, 1960) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

The Flying Burrito Brothers: The Gilded Palace of Sin (A&M, 1969) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Robert Forster: Intermission: The Best of the Solo Recordings 1990-1997 (Beggars Banquet, 2007) Go-Betweens records set the late Grant McLennan's placidly melodic romantic discontents against Forster's talkier, knottier excursions, improving both by contrast. The solo collections from their decade-long '90s hiatus work differently. Ignoring chronology, the more eccentric disc by the less melodically apt Forster doesn't even lead with "Baby Stones," a no thanks to open relationships that soars on his most McLennanesque tune. But hooks have a way of surfacing--the keyboard riff of "I Can Do," his herky-jerk repetitions of the title "Danger in the Past." Clearly the surviving Go-Between should keep making music--alone. [Rolling Stone: 3.5]

Four Tet: Pink (Text, 2012) [2013 Dean's List: 25]

Aretha Franklin: Aretha's Gold (Atlantic, 1968) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

Aretha Franklin: 30 Greatest Hits (Atlantic, 1985) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Lefty Frizzell: Columbia Historic Edition (Columbia, 1982) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Lefty Frizzell: Lefty Frizzell's Greatest Hits (Columbia, 1966) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Ezra Furman: Day of the Dog (Bar/None, 2013) [2013 Dean's List: 39]

Marvin Gaye: Anthology (Motown, 1974) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Marvin Gaye: Super Hits (Tamla, 1970) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

Ghostface Killah and Trife Da God: Put It on the Line (Starks Enterprises, 2005) Trife has Ghost's sharpness without his cry or eye, which leaves more than you might fear ("Cocaine Trafficking," "The Watch") [unknown]

Scott Goddard: The Genius of Ray Charles (Atlantic, 1960) An eclectic standards collection ranging from "Alexander's Ragtime Band" to "Come Rain or Come Shine" to the Percy Mayfield blues "Two Years of Torture" was the brainchild and love child of producers Jerry Wexler and Nesuhi Ertegun, who noodged five different arrangers into the subtlest charts of Charles's career. Charles tried many times, but except for Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music he never again assembled such a consistent album in this mode. [Rolling Stone]

Grateful Dead: The Grateful Dead (Warner Bros., 1967) One of the year's few supposedly psychedelic LPs that wasn't actually a pop LP (cf. Sgt. Pepper, Forever Changes, Mellow Yellow), the already legendary San Francisco band-collective's debut stood out and stands tall because its boogieing folk-rock epitomizes the San Francisco ballroom ethos/aesthetic--blues-based tunes played by musicians who came to rhythm late, expanded so they were equally suitable for dancing and for tripping out. It's also the only studio album that respects and documents the impact of Rod "Pigpen" McKernan, who died in 1973 of cirrhosis of the liver. McKernan's organ is almost as pervasive as Jerry Garcia's guitar. And although Garcia and Bob Weir both take vocal leads, their singing styles are still in Pigpen's white-blues thrall. [Rolling Stone: The 40 Essential Albums of 1967]

Al Green: Back Up Train (Arista/Legacy, 1969) "There was just no logical reason for that particular tune to take off like it did," Green has said of the title song, a 1967 one-shot that did the world the favor of letting a gifted young singer taste success. The album built up around it after he became famous establishes that the regional hit in question was catchier than the rest of the generic r&b he and his Grand Rapids boys were laying down. Maybe people just liked his voice. [Blender: 1]

Al Green: Green Is Blues (The Right Stuff/Hi, 1969) Not always such a genius, Mitchell began remaking young Al Green in 1969 by having him cover the Beatles, the Box Tops, and, less bizarrely, gritty r&b crooner Little Willie John. These attempts to conform to pop fashion are fairly fascinating in retrospect. But Green was better off making pop fashion conform to him. [Blender: 3]

Woody Guthrie: Dust Bowl Ballads (Rounder, 1988) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Jimi Hendrix: Are You Experienced? (Experience Hendrix, 1967) Try to hear this bombshell debut as an English pop record--only two of the 11 skillfully paced paced tracks, three titanic bonus singles, and three fascinating B sides run over four minutes, and hooks abound. You could hum these tunes. Yet humming definitely didn't capture their essence, a roiling sea of guitar that would change how a generation of fans heard music and conceived their own blown minds. [Blender: 5]

Jimi Hendrix: Axis: Bold as Love (Experience Hendrix, 1968) True believers praise the spaced-out lightness of his second album, released just half a year after Are You Experienced? But since Hendrix immediately heavied up again, figure they're kidding themselves--half the songs are forgettable as songs if fine as recordings, and there's even some pro forma guitar. Not much, though, and to hear Mitchell going wild on tracks even briefer than the debut's is to nudge Keith Moon over on his free-style drumming pedestal. [Blender: 3]

Jimi Hendrix: Electric Ladyland (Experience Hendrix, 1969) "It wasn't just slopped together; every little thing you hear there means something," said Hendrix of his two-LP masterwork. And though it isn't perfect, perfection wasn't the idea. No previous rock album flowed like this, and while jazz albums often support as many contrasting sonic moods, Louis Armstrong himself didn't match Hendrix's appetite for sound effects and general silliness. His spaced-out spirituality is the fullest musicalization of "psychedelic" ever accomplished. [Blender: 5]

Jimi Hendrix: First Rays of the New Rising Sun (Experience Hendrix/MCA, 1997) "If you give deeper thoughts in your music then the masses will buy them," Hendrix said, and maybe if he'd finished this double LP his dreams would have come true. But as reimagined by longtime engineer Eddie Kramer, it's less startling musically than Electric Ladyland and not too profound lyrically. It's also a powerful collection by a stone genius whose songwriting kept growing and whose solos rarely disappoint. [Blender: 4]

Jimi Hendrix: Live at the Oakland Coliseum (Dagger/Experience Hendrix, 1999) This competent unauthorized mono recording of an April 1969 concert has now been certified by Experience Hendrix's major domo, Jimi's stepsister Janie Hendrix, whom he barely knew. It's a bootleg, it sounds like one, and it's expressly "not intended for the casual fan." Big deals: 18-minute workout on "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" and, heart be still, guest shot by Jefferson Airplane's Jack Casady. [Blender: 2]

Jimi Hendrix: Smash Hits (Reprise, 1968) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Jimi Hendrix: South Saturn Delta (Experience Hendrix/MCA, 1997) Discographically presumptuous though this melange of odd tracks, alternate takes, and previously unreleaseds is, it establishes the listenability of Hendrix's dribs and drabs. Crazies with time on their hands can have a not dissimilar experience with the four-CD The Jimi Hendrix Experience box. [Blender: 3]

Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Child: The Jimi Hendrix Collection (Experience Hendrix, 2001) This budget double--18 studio tracks balanced by 12 live recordings--whups the 20-track bestseller Experience Hendrix: The Best of Jimi Hendrix. Beyond "Manic Depression," it omits no essential songs. If several arrive in uncanonical live versions, well, you can't comprehend Hendrix without some of those. Despite climaxing with "Wild Thing" at Monterey rather than leading with it, disc two stands as his greatest live album. [Blender: 5]

Buddy Holly: 20 Golden Greats (MCA, 1978) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

John Lee Hooker: Hooker (Shout! Factory, 2006) Dead at 83 in 2001, John Lee Hooker transformed the unflappability of his drawl and the unstoppability of his beat into good records for half a century. Mississippi primitive turned man of the world, he boogied solo and combo, with white blues bands and superstars. Though there were classic songs in his kit--"Boom Boom," "I'm in the Mood," "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer"--Hooker was not a greatest-hits kind of guy, which is one reason this 84-track four-CD overview is a more enticing introduction than the 31-track Rhino twofer it blows away. Box set excess does his magnitude justice, allowing you to luxuriate in the idiosyncrasies of his monolithic groove. Play it for five hours and you won't get bored. You'll just live in it. [Blender: 4]

Mississippi John Hurt: The Immortal Mississippi John Hurt (Vanguard, 1967) Of all the rediscovered bluesman of the folk revival, Hurt was the least diminished by age because he was so unassuming to begin with. Having first recorded at thirty-five in 1928, he was seventy-three when he cut this posthumously released collection, which showcases his intricately unflashy finger-picking, begins and ends with hymns, and reprises both his moral take on "Stagolee" and his own fashion-conscious "Richland Woman Blues": "With rosy red garters/Pink hose on my feet/Turkey red bloomers/With a rumble seat." [Rolling Stone: The 40 Essential Albums of 1967]

The Impressions: Greatest Hits (MCA, 1982) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

The Impressions: The Vintage Years: The Impressions Featuring Jerry Butler and Curtis Mayfield (Sire, 1976) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

Etta James: Her Greatest Sides, Vol. 1 (Chess, 1983) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Shooter Jennings: The Wolf (Universal South, 2007) So who is Shooter Jennings if he isn't Waylon's son? He hopes you don't ask--mentions "my dad" in the first verse of his third album, and before long also namechecks Johnny, Merle, Hank, and Audrey in case you missed the point. Shooter has himself a rockin' band, and he can write a little--"Old Friends" male-bonds with some warmth and "She Lives in Color" female-bonds with some warmth. But he's the type who loves his darlin' for those "ladylike things," and at bottom, he's selling an "authentic" revival of a marketing tool--one his dad invented, known as outlaw country. The most likable song here is by Shooter's 4F-ing drummer, who's in it for the pussy straight up. Sure there are ladies who love outlaws, and guys who wish said ladies loved them instead. But why anyone else should care about this stuff only Willie Nelson could tell you, and his fee is fifty grand. [Rolling Stone: 2.5]

George Jones: The King of Country Music (Liberty, 1984) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

George Jones: 16 Greatest Hits (Starday, 1977) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

George Jones: White Lightning (Ace, 1984) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Norah Jones: Not Too Late (Blue Note, 2007) Greatness thrust upon her by Come Away With Me's Grammy sweep, Norah Jones maintained her modesty at all costs on 2004's Feels Like Home, with results less jazzy but duller--even duller, some would say. On the mildly adventurous Not Too Late, she writes or co-writes every song--13 in all, five more than on the first two combined. Although she may never hit upon a hook to equal Jesse Harris's on "Don't Know Why," she's quirkier lyrically than any of her helpmates, an effect magnified by the thoughtful, sweetly rounded melancholy of the voice people love. So you have to concentrate to follow the twists of Not Too Late's opening "Wish I Could." And though "My Dear Country"'s stark "On election day" will catchy you short every time, you probably won't notice Jones calling an unnamed but unmistakable George W. Bush "the one we hate" just before. These political moments contextualize Jones's calm. But lest her peace-at-all-costs legions fret, they're hardly the norm--"Thinking About You," prereleased on MP3, returns to the soldier in "Wish I Could" only if you read a whole lot into "sail across the ocean waters." [Rolling Stone: 3]

Louis Jordan: The Best of Louis Jordan (MCA, 1975) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Louis Jordan: Greatest Hits Vol. 2 (1941-1947) (MCA, 1975) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

B.B. King: The Best of B.B. King Volume 1 (Ace, 1986) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

B.B. King: Live at the Regal (MCA, 1964) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

B.B. King: 16 Greatest Hits (Galaxy, 1968) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

The Kinks: Face to Face (Reprise, 1966) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

The Kinks: Greatest Hits (Rhino, 1989) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

The Kinks: The Kinks Greatest Hits! (Reprise, 1966) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

Kocani Orkestar: L'Orient Est Rouge (Cramworld, 2006) There is no Gypsy music, only musics Gypsies play. The genre that captivated Beirut's Zach Condon is Gypsy brass, and this skillfully produced recording makes an ideal starter CD. Featuring trumpeter and hereditary leader Naat Veliov, expelled in an unsavory contract wrangle shortly after taking his tuba-bumping Macedonian band international, it beautifies the hot blare of Romania's Fanfare Ciocarlia and the raggedy-ass craziness of Serbia's Boban Markovic with Veliov's firm yet woozy lyricism. A stone classic caps the high-test performance: the Roma "national anthem," "Djelem, Djelem." [Rolling Stone: 4]

Talib Kweli: Ear Drum (Warner Bros., 2007) Talib Kweli earns the respect he gets. He's got plenty of brains and enough flow, and though his attempts to make conscious rap commercial inspire purist sniping, he's balanced the two with integrity and grace. But four solo albums in, it can't be an accident that he's done his signature work with collaborators--Mos Def (Black Star), Hi-Tek (Reflection Eternal), and many, many cameos (try the Coup's "My Favorite Mutiny"). The man simply lacks spark. Kweli's Warner debut features yet more cameos--Kanye! Norah Jones! UGK!--and many, many producers. Though it's admirably consistent and pretty darn OK, it lacks a knockout track to counterbalance the complaints about the King James Bible and swine toothpaste. Closest is one to his kids, with Musiq Soulchild adding music and soul, child. Right after, "Listen!!!" establishes its right to bang on your title orifice. But then there's Justin Timberlake's bonus cut. JT--eschew philosophy! You sing, therefore you are. [Rolling Stone: 3]

Lady Gaga: Artpop (Streamline/Interscope, 2013) [2013 Dean's List: 6]

Jonboy Langford and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts: The Executioner's Last Songs Volumes 2 & 3 (Bloodshot, 2003) More songs about transgression and death--two CDs' worth, actually (Jon Langford With Sally Timms, "Delilah"; Skid Marks With Sally Timms, "Homicide"; Otis Clay, "Banks of the Ohio") [unknown]

Latyrx: The Second Album (SoleSides, 2013) [2013 Dean's List: 19]

Jerry Lee Lewis: 18 Original Greatest Hits (Rhino, 1983) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Jerry Lee Lewis: Original Golden Hits--Volume 1 (Sun, 1969) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

Jerry Lee Lewis & Linda Gail Lewis: Together (Smash, 1969) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Little Richard: 18 Greatest Hits (Rhino, 1985) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Little Richard: Little Richard's Grooviest 17 Original Hits! (Specialty, 1968) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

The Lovin' Spoonful: Anthology (Rhino, 1990) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

The Lovin' Spoonful: The Best . . . (Kama Sutra, 1976) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers: The Best of Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers (Rhino, 1989) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Taj Mahal: Taj Mahal (Columbia, 1968) The former Henry Saint Claire Fredericks wasn't just the most prominent young African-American of the blues revival. He was its most credible voice, and more--forty years later, he's clearly an original stylist already in bloom. Avidly and affably fronting a superb Ry Cooder-Jesse Ed Davis band, Mahal does every standard here proud. Sleepy John Estes's "Leaving Trunk" he now owns. Blind Willie McTell's "Statesboro Blues" he showed the world. The original "E Z Rider" he could have found on an old 78. [unknown]

The Mamas and the Papas: Farewell to the First Golden Era (MCA, 1983) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Marah: Float Away With the Friday Night Gods (Artemis/E-Squared, 2002) Anyone put off their feed by Dave Bielanko's running Springsteen impression on Marah's 2000 roots-garage critics' album Kids in Philly will be relieved to learn that, although Bruce himself cameos on the follow-up, Bielanko's voice has changed. Now, with help from former Oasis producer Owen Morris, he's emulating Liam Gallagher, and having lowered his sights comes within a tonsil's breadth of hitting the target. If this doesn't seem like much to boast about, Marah has also developed a knack for the dynamite chorus. From "Float Away" with its boss guitar break to "Out in Style" with its intimations of existential failure, track after track starts with or launches into a zooming tunelet recognizable at 50 paces. And how the music does zoom--as with Oasis, Morris broadens Serge Bielanko's guitar till it fuzzes over like a Hammond B-3, and when the band emigrated to England last year, Dave left his banjo behind. But missing from this candid and even intelligent attempt to take a local band pop is--what else?--any vestige of the local. Avowedly "personal" lyrics are shamefully short on wit, detail, psychological insight--or sex, which might be enough. Maybe next time Bielanko should try Maxwell impressions. [Rolling Stone: 3]

Boban Markovic Orkestar: Live in Belgrade (Piranha, 2002) "Best trumpet of Guca" gets wild, indulges Balkan romanticism, plays "Hava Nagila" ("Ring, Ring," "Votopad") [unknown]

Maroon 5: Songs About Jane (Octone, 2002) Broken heart often spurs killer hooks, fond memories occasionally engender likable songs ("Sunday Morning," "Must Get Out") [unknown *]

Martha and the Vandellas: Greatest Hits (Gordy, 1966) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

The Marvelettes: Greatest Hits (Motown, 1966) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Curtis Mayfield: People Get Ready: The Curtis Mayfield Story (Rhino, 1996) Curtis Mayfield wasn't just a genius, he was a hero. He even managed to record 1996's creditable New World Order as a quadriplegic. But as geniuses go he was pretty spacy, his solo work radically inconsistent, and accessing his higher-than-gospel croon, stealth guitar riffs, utopian-millenarian political vision, and erotic-domestic romanticism is can be pretty messy. This box set is the only effective way to find out how good Mayfield could be beyond his acknowledged canon. The final disc of the three consists entirely of post-'76 dribs and drabs. Some are merely obscure. But others--"Homeless," "She Don't Let Nobody (But Me)"--are vintage. [Rolling Stone: 4]

Grant McLennan: Intermission: The Best of the Solo Recordings 1990-1997 (Beggars Banquet, 2007) McLennan's fatal heart attack in May, 2006, ended Australia's Go-Betweens, a group nearly three decades old that after ten years off had reconvened convincingly in 2000, releasing three albums that promised many more. Twin compilations from their down period can't replace the follow-ups we'll never hear. McLennan, who wrote more easily than Forster--his best album was a double, Horsebreaker Star, while one of Forster's was all covers--gets a surefire album-by-album selection marred only by somewhat static production--the Go-Betweens were always interactive. There's ample proof of his pop gift in the wry, tender, gorgeous opener, "Haven't I Been a Fool," and unending evidence of his miraculously solid tunecraft thereafter. [Rolling Stone: 4.5]

M.I.A.: Matangi (Interscope, 2013) [2013 Dean's List: 33]

The Miracles: The Miracles' Greatest Hits From the Beginning (Tamla, 1965) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

Moby: Go: The Very Best of Moby (V2, 2006) Seven years later, Moby has constructed an album as seductively sequenced and in-your-face melodic as Play, and give him credit--he recycled only five Play tracks doing it. Give him less credit for weighting a 16-song best-of so heavily toward his present label. Moby, a man who know the permissions game, clearly decided that pulling Nineties keepers off his Elektra and Instinct albums wasn't worth the tariff, at least not to him--Everything Is Wrong's "God Moving on the Face of the Waters" is his only concession. He compensates with an intense, toasted-up live "Feeling So Real" and a fleshed-out remake of his 1991 classic "Go." Both these tracks typify an album that doesn't depend exclusively on borrowed black people as human signifiers, at once more rock and more techno than Play. And you needn't be a dance geek to play the bonus disc of fave remixes in your living room. [Rolling Stone: 4]

Modest Mouse: We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank (Epic, 2007) Not much chance there's another "Float On" here to goose sales, but just because novelties are always unlikely, but because "Float On" found Isaac Brock in an atypically live-and-let-live mood. Usually he's more fuck-me, let's-get-lost, or oh-shit-not-again. So one candidate, the instantly hooky "We Know Everything," tops its "we know we know" backup with a "Left you dying on the floor" finale; another, "Steam Engenius," tosses in some woo-hoos on its way to "Stasis is what you got." In short, his latest lyrics are like his earliest, yoking images of failure and frustration to the loud and the catchy, thus rendering failure and frustration more fun. After six albums, this victory is getting too theoretical. Brock is a dour guy with a lot of talent and a good hustle who's been mining the same vein of meaning for over a decade. That's a long time--maybe too long. [Rolling Stone: 3.5]

The Move: Message From the Country (Capitol, 2005) The entire Electric Light Orchestra catalog is now in reissue, with Randy Newman doing the notes. But you know better. You know Jeff Lynne's greatest band was the Move because it included Roy Wood, who soon proved incompatible with ELO's grander ambitions. What you probably don't know is that this (admittedly, as it is said, "remastered") version of the Move's 1971 peak adds naught but four alternate-version "bonus cuts" to 1994's Great Move!: The Best of the Move. Both include the whomping "Message From the Country," the all shook up "Don't Mess Me Up," the Man-in-Black-on-ludes "Ben Crawley Steel Company," and that ultimate bonus cut, the radio-unready greatest-single-of-all-time nominee "Do Ya." Post-psychedelia, the Move were a loud bastion against singer-songwriter miasma. No other band better evokes a giant mechanical lizard. [Recyclables]

Ricky Nelson: Ricky Nelson: Legendary Masters Series (United Artists, 1971) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Carl Perkins: Original Golden Hits (Sun, 1969) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

Carl Perkins: Original Sun Greatest Hits (Rhino, 1986) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Lee "Scratch" Perry: Panic in Babylon (Narnack, 2006) You say you didn't know Lee Perry won a Grammy for Jamaican E.T. in 2002? You say the nutty old dubmaster is hard to keep track of, living in Zurich and all? True, he's released some 20 albums in the four years since--twice that including compilations--and probably hasn't heard them all himself. So start here. It's song-oriented (OK, chant-oriented), with a 16-minute disc of remixes for the seriously spaced. Over typically well-deployed guitar-bass-drums-keybs, it starts strong, with an early peak at "Pussy Man": "Eminent, I'm the firmament/Emmy meant I'm permanent." Later, after doing Jah's work on the title cut, Perry turns to what's really on his mind, which is his mind. "I Am a Psychiatrist" is the masterpiece in question, and it sounds drawn from life: "Heal your pain/Bless your brain/Curse your name/From whence you came." Many songs express insanity. Not many encompass it. [Rolling Stone: 3.5]

Wilson Pickett: The Best of Wilson Pickett (Atlantic, 1967) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

Wilson Pickett: The Definitive Wilson Pickett (Atlantic/Rhino, 2006) For once, the 30 songs on these two CDs actually are definitive. True, they cover only the Wicked Pickett's Atlantic decade. But his late peaks aren't as consistently intense, powerful, assured, macho, or, truth to tell, tender--once taken for a shameless novelty, his "Hey Jude" now stands high among inspired Beatles covers. And though the 14 extras on 1992's A Man and a Half are almost as terrific, stylistically they can be distracting. Possessor of one of history's great shouting baritones, which he regularly revved to a scream when he found his sound, Pickett was also the master of Southern soul's rolling funk, most of which he recorded in Muscle Shoals like the Alabaman he was, not the sentimentally canonized Memphis. Slick, sharp, and felt, he defined the genre as well as this compilation defines him. [Blender: 5]

Placebo: Black Market Music (Virgin, 2000) With encouragement from, of all people, Pavement, an angstmonger's voice gets political, a little ("Taste in Men," "Slave to the Wage") [unknown]

The Platters: Encore of Golden Hits (Mercury, 1960) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Elvis Presley: Elvis Presley (RCA, 1956) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Elvis Presley: Elvis' Golden Records (RCA, 1958) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Elvis Presley: The Sun Sessions (RCA, 1975) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Pulnoc: Live at P.S. 122 ([bootleg], 1989) [1989 Dean's List: 1]

Ramones: Weird Tales of the Ramones (Sire/Rhino, 2005) Between 1976 and 1978, the Ramones were a skyrocket who released four more or less flawless albums. Then they turned into a Ford Econoline, touring the world and releasing 11 more studio albums. Many were worthy, but only 1984's Too Tough to Die is worthy of the 25 '70s tracks omitted from this, their fourth or sixth anthology depending on how you count. It's their first box, selected by their late guitarist-leader Johnny Ramone, who was prouder than necessary of both their longevity and his ability to retire at 45 off his catalogue and investments. The '70s albums end on disc one, and the fourth disc is devoted to a recycled video comp that further emphasizes their careerist period. All 25 omitted songs would have fit onto that disc. In descending order of preference, try Ramones, Rocket to Russia, Road to Ruin, and Ramones Leave Home, all available separately. Program out the bonus cuts. [unknown: 3]

The Rascals: Time Peace: The Rascals' Greatest Hits (Atlantic, 1968) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Otis Redding: The Best of Otis Redding (Atlantic, 1972) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Otis Redding: Dictionary of Soul (Volt, 1966) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Otis Redding: The Immortal Otis Redding (Atco, 1968) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Jerry Reed: The Ultimate Jimmy Reed (BluesWay, 1973) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

Jimmy Reed: Bright Lights, Big City (Chameleon, 1988) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Damien Rice: 9 (Warner Bros., 2006) The tortured melancholy bit takes a back seat on the tardy follow-up to this Irish bard's well-loved 2003 debut--on part of it, anyway. Not that Rice is cracking any jokes, except for the mean one about sitting on a chimney. But after unveiling three more of the love laments whose loveliness lifted him from the singer-songwriter morass last time--the opener, "Crimes," is unforgettable--he gets actively angry and sweetly lyrical on four tracks that culminate in a galvanizing imitation of Polly Jean Harvey's galvanizing imitation of testosterone-fueled desperation. Then comes the accurately entitled "Grey Room" and the weepies get him. You're an eloquent fellow, Damien. There's sinew and backbone in your voice. So just tuck your heart back under your lapel and the acutely entitled "Accidental Babies" might actually win her back--properly framed, that "Do you brush your teeth before you kiss?" could be a pretty affecting line. In fact, it almost is anyway. [Rolling Stone: 3]

Rilo Kiley: Take Offs and Landings (Barsuk, 2001) The virtues and pitfalls of precision in love ("Go Ahead," "Bulletproof") [unknown]

Sharon Robinson: Everybody Knows (Sharon Robinson Songs, 2008) "Everybody Knows" Choice Cuts

Smokey Robinson & the Miracles: Anthology (Motown, 1973) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Smokey Robinson & the Miracles: Greatest Hits Vol. 2 (Tamla, 1967) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

The Rolling Stones: Aftermath (Abkco, 1966) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

The Rolling Stones: Beggars Banquet (Abkco, 1968) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

The Rolling Stones: Between the Buttons (Abkco, 1967) Accused of psychedelia, Beatlephobia, and murky mix syndrome, this underrated keeper is distinguished by complex rhymes, complex sexual stereotyping, and the non-blues, oh-so-rock-and-roll pianos of Ian Stewart, Jack Nitzsche, Nicky Hopkins, and Brian Jones. Like all Beatles and Stones albums till that time, it was released in different American and British versions. The surefire U.S.-only "Let's Spend the Night Together"/"Ruby Tuesday" single parlay is almost too much because its greatness is understood--"Back Street Girl," bumped to the Flowers compilation released later that year, more closely resembles such gemlike songs of experience as "Connection," "My Obsession," and "She Smiled Sweetly." Capper: Mick and Keith's zonked music-hall "Something Happened to Me Yesterday," the Stones' drollest odd-track-out ever. [Rolling Stone: The 40 Essential Albums of 1967]

The Rolling Stones: Flowers (Abkco, 1967) The Stones were cresting so high around 1967 that even this pieced-together hodgepodge has a distinctness of style and invention about it. Right, it re-recycles "Let's Spend the Night Together"/"Ruby Tuesday," which shouldn't have been on Between the Buttons to begin with. It disrespects the rightful owners of "My Girl," the Temptations, and the target of "Mother's Little Helper," yo mama. As for "Lady Jane," what's that about? Nevertheless, every track connects. That's more than can be said of Their Satanic Majesties Request, which is better than its rep even so. [Rolling Stone: The 40 Essential Albums of 1967]

The Rolling Stones: Let It Bleed (Abkco, 1969) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

The Rolling Stones: Out of Our Heads (Abkco, 1965) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

The Rolling Stones: The Rolling Stones, Now! (Abkco, 1965) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

The Rolling Stones: 12 X 5 (Abkco, 1964) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Diana Ross & the Supremes: Anthology (Motown, 1973) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Sam & Dave: The Best of Sam & Dave (Atlantic, 1969) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

The Serpent Power: The Serpent Power (Vanguard, 1967) Think of the Serpent Power as the Bay Area's version of the Velvet Underground. Led by poet David Meltzer, with Meltzer on untutored post-folk guitar, Meltzer and his wife Tina singing his songs, poet Clark Coolidge clattering behind on drums, and the soon-vanished John Payne fixing a hole on organ, their music was minimalist folk-rock with noise--the climactic, electric-banjo augmented "Endless Tunnel" goes on for thirteen minutes. Some songs began as poems, other didn't, but all feature notable lyrics--some romantic, some gruff, some both. And all but a few are graced by excellent tunes, none more winsome than that of the lost classic "Up and Down." [Rolling Stone: The 40 Essential Albums of 1967]

Shakira: Fijación Oral Vol. 1 (Epic, 2005) [2005 Dean's List: 74]

Shakira: Oral Fixation Vol. 2 (Epic, 2005) [2005 Dean's List: 17]

The Shirelles: Anthology (1959-1964) (Rhino, 1984) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

The Shirelles: The Shirelles' Greatest Hits (Scepter, 1963) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

Sleigh Bells: Bitter Rivals (Mom + Pop, 2013) [2013 Dean's List: 52]

Sly & the Family Stone: Dance to the Music (Epic/Legacy, 1968) One great song here--guess what. But highlighted by the 12-minute "Dance to the Medley," the thing moves, a groove album that pits Larry Graham's athletic bass against Gregg Errico's leadfoot drums, with articulate horns and multivalent vocals swirling and punching and meshing up top. [Rolling Stone: 3]

Sly & the Family Stone: Life (Epic/Legacy, 1968) This is where Stone figures out his shit--although the hits were minor on this album, its individual tracks stick, from the dyn-o-mite guitar of "Dynamite!" and the clucking horns of "Chicken" to the no-holds-barred clinches of "M'lady" and the erotic ennui of "Jane Is a Groupee." [Rolling Stone: 3.5]

Sly & the Family Stone: Stand! (Epic/Legacy, 1969) Highlighted but not exhausted by five songs Greatest Hits would recycle just a year later, Stand! revealed the magnificence of which Sly's band would all too briefly be capable. "Sex Machine," which precipitated James Brown's, wah-wahs on a bit, but everything else is etched in Stone, from the equally precipitous "Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey" to the Chaka Khan fave "Somebody's Watching You" to, yes you can, "You Can Make It if You Try." [Rolling Stone: 4.5]

Sly & the Family Stone: A Whole New Thing (Epic/Legacy, 1967) Prophetic in their rhythms, racial philosophy, and ostensible gender relations, Sly & the Family Stone scored a string of '60s hits that crystallized a vision of freedom--as Greil Marcus summarized, its complexity, coherence, wild anarchy, and endless affirmation. Unfortunatey, that vision is present only in embryo on this much-sampled debut, which doesn't generate a single song any ordinary fan need remember. [Rolling Stone: 2.5]

Huey "Piano" Smith: Huey "Piano" Smith's Rock & Roll Revival (Ace, 1971) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

Sonic Youth: Daydream Nation: Deluxe Edition (Geffen, 2007) Loosed on the world in 1988, Daydream Nation made alt-rock a life-force. Over two vinyl discs containing just fourteen titles, it fused Sonic Youth's displaced guitar tunings with tunes as hummable as the Beatles' or the Ramones'--a standard they've matched ever since, but never again with quite so much anthemic consistency. Today, Daydream Nation's evocation of sonic youths with talent to burn and nowhere to build a fire is clearly rooted in the specifics of a Manhattan bohemia since transformed by Internet money and real estate sharks. Post-irony, its confusion-as-sex seems almost innocent. But its tunings keep it honest and its anthems keep it thrilling. A terrific bonus disc compiles covers that do justice to the band's ambition--Mudhoney's "Touch Me I'm Sick," Neil Young's "Computer World," the Beatles' "Within You Without You"--and unearths live versions of every Daydream Nation song. These are rough, intense, welcome. But the studio versions are definitive, as dense as cluster bombs. "Your life is such a mess/Forget the past, and just say yes"? "You can buy some more and more and more and more"? As words, admissions of futility. Atop marshalled guitars, artistic war cries. [Rolling Stone: 5]

Soul Coughing: New York, NY 16-08-99 (Kufala, 2004) It's just as well NYC's Soul Coughing went over-and-out after three albums in 2000. Though Mike Doughty was sharper and funnier than Morphine's Mark Sandman or the Eels' Mark Oliver Everett, in the end all three were hipsters putting the beat in beat poetry, an m.o. that generally wears out no matter how ingenious the principals. But Soul Coughing were so loose and loud live that this board-tape double-CD does more than remind fans of better days. Keyboardist Mark de Gli Antoni sampled like a madman. Sebastian Steinberg got monster sound from a standup bass. Drummer Yuval Gabay's jazz chops felt the noise. And Doughty, well--wotta ham. "Power to the people--right on," he hopes sarcastically at the start. "Perhaps you would like to sing along like big jerks with me," he ventures fondly at the end. And in between he orates his songs so decisively it's like he loved them as much as the day they were born. [unknown: 3.5]

Omar Souleyman: Wenu Wenu (Ribbon, 2013) [2013 Dean's List: 59]

Otis Spann: Walking the Blues (Barnaby, 1972) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Dusty Springfield: Dusty in Memphis (Atlantic, 1969) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Dusty Springfield: Dusty in Memphis . . . Plus (Philips, 1985) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Teddybears: Soft Machine (Big Beat/Atlantic, 2006) By now we've met so many arty rockboys turned poppy tune phreaks that there's nothing special conceptually about this danceable Stockholm trio, debuting Stateside after starting as a hardcore band 15 years ago. What distinguishes them is execution. This isn't the "different sound" they advertise, especially in its electropop moments, but it isn't just more of the same. It's a hell of a lot more of the same--super-catchy, crammed with guest vocals. Expertly of course, they tone up or smooth down the catchiest songs from 2000's E.U-only Rock 'n' Roll Highschool for their crack at America, where the TV revenues they love are even more lovable. Mixes are brightened, grooves tightened, vocals changed: fresh recruit Neneh Cherry turns "Yours to Keep" sunny and sublime, and Iggy Pop rocks the postpunk "Punkrocker." There's ace new material too. But their best trick is doing dancehall right. Who knew Elephant Man was such a friendly guy? Who knew Swedes could toast at all? [Rolling Stone: 3.5]

The Temptations: Greatest Hits (Motown, 1966) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Gabriel Teodros: Lovework (MassLine, 2007) "We rock shows, mostly white folks come out," acknowledges twenty-six-year-old Gabriel Teodros toward the end of his solo debut. It's a typical ploy for the Seattle rapper, at once situating him in the underground and, by its candor, raising him a little above it. Teodros pumps a quiet flow over producer Amos Miller's keyboard-based beats--think Toronto's K-Os, only deeper and more swinging. He's conscious, diligently pro-woman, even slipping into the lamentably uncolloquial word-cluster "greed, homophobia, and sexism" (he's against 'em). But because he's an Ethiopian immigrant, his Afrocentric politics take on a compelling extra measure of knowledge and entitlement--especially, no surprise, on the geopolitically detailed "East Afrika" and the respecfully un-Rastafarian "In This Together." Teodros has brains, musicality, and a refreshing attitude. It's such a relief to encounter an alt-rapper who never once whines about his anxiety or wallows in his disempowerment. [Rolling Stone: 3.5]

Joe Tex: The Best of Joe Tex (Atlantic, 1967) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

Joe Tex: I Believe I'm Gonna Make It: The Best of Joe Tex (Rhino, 1988) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Those Darlins: Blur the Line (Ow Wow Dang, 2013) [2013 Dean's List: 55]

Sidi Touré: Alafia (Thrill Jockey, 2013) [2013 Dean's List: 57]

Big Joe Turner: Greatest Hits (Atlantic, 1987) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Big Joe Turner: His Greatest Recordings (Atco, 1971) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

Ike Turner: Here and Now (Ikon, 2001) Ike Turner is the kind of innovator best appreciated by connoisseurs--for his solos, his arrangements, the singers he exploited. One of these, headlong shouter Jackie Brenston, had his name on the 1951 r&b smash and first-rock-and-roll-record nominee "Rocket 88." On this comeback, 69-year-old Ike, who hasn't made a solo album since 1972, slows the classic just a hair, and though his typically expert band hits the groove on all cylinders, his raspy vocal could use an oil change. And so it goes. Of the seven songs, only the newly minted sexist novelty "I Need A-Nuddin'" properly shows off his comic baritone, and only a remake of Turner's old Billy Gayles showcase "I'm Tore Up" conveys the urgency palpable in late Muddy Waters or Alberta Hunter. Of the four instrumentals, only the fast-moving "Baby's Got It"--highlighted by Ike's (or maybe Ernest Lane's) piano--strops up the kind of edge that sharpens 1994 Rhino compilation I Like Ike! throughout. Ike can still get it up, definitely. But how much he enjoys it isn't as clear as it should be. [Rolling Stone: 3]

Theodore Unit: 718 (Sure Shot, 2004) Ghostface plays RZA to his chosen clan ("Who Are We?" "Gatz") [unknown]

United State of Electronica: United State of Electronica (Sonic Boom, 2004) Most humane vocoder band ever ("Emerald City," "It Is On") [unknown]

The Velvet Underground: Live at Max's Kansas City (Deluxe Edition) (Atlantic/Rhino, 2004) Recorded in notorious lo-fi from the table of Warhol hanger-on Brigid Polk in 1970, Lou Reed's last Velvets show until 1993 is one of the few collector's items to gain patina with the remastered, bonus-cutted, double-disc overkill of the CD era. Although the basic effect is still that of hearing a band from the back of a noisy bar, the audio is crisper and more forceful. Although John Cale and Mo Tucker are gone, Reed does sing songs performed in their official studio versions by Nico and Doug Yule. And although Live 1969 remains the essential document, it is kinda cool to hear Brigid's buddies chatting obliviously about Nixon and Tuinols as punk's forefathers go gamely into that good night. [Blender: 3]

Gene Vincent: The Best of Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps (Capitol, 1985) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Gene Vincent: The Bop That Just Won't Stop (1956) (Capitol, 1974) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Fats Waller: If You Got to Ask, You Ain't Got It! (Bluebird/Legacy, 2005) Harlem preacher's son turned pianist-organist-bar singer Fats Waller defied the racial odds to become a pop star in the '30s--when he died at 39 in 1943, he'd scored more hits than fellow crossover virtuoso Louis Armstrong himself. But he's been poorly served by CD reissues until this three-disc collection. Legendary producer Orrin Keepnews avoids chronological mishmash by dividing Waller's immense output into originals, instrumentals, and covers. A prolific tunesmith who wrote "Honeysuckle Rose" and "Ain't Misbehavin'" with the great black lyricist Andy Razaf, Waller got big by yocking up such supposed trivia as "Your Feet's Too Big" and "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie." And though his stride and swing were always muscular, he could tickle the ivories like the classical artist he yearned to be. [Blender: 5]

Dionne Warwick: Anthology 1962-1969 (Rhino, 1984) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Dionne Warwick: Golden Hits/Part I (Scepter, 1968) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

Dionne Warwick: Greatest Hits/Part One (Scepter, 1967) By 1967, "Alfie" and the like had Warwick on the road to divahood, but that didn't mean this best-of, marked "Circa 1962-1964" in gold on the cover, was perceived as an oldies record. Girl groups weren't considered quaint yet, and Warwick has never been more tuneful or charming than when she and Bacharach-David had them to contend with. The selling points here are Warwick standards like "Walk On By" and "Don't Make Me Over." But obscurities long vanished from her canon are only a shade less compelling: the delicate "Any Old Time of Day," or her proud, quiet cover of the Shirelles' "It's Love That Really Counts." [Rolling Stone: The 40 Essential Albums of 1967]

Muddy Waters: The Best of Muddy Waters (Chess, 1957) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Muddy Waters: The Real Folk Blues (Chess, 1966) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Muddy Waters: Sail On (Chess, 1969) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

Muddy Waters: Trouble No More: Singles (1955-1959) (Chess, 1989) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

The Who: Happy Jack (Decca, 1967) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

The Who: A Quick One (Happy Jack)/The Who Sell Out (MCA, 1970) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

The Who: The Who Sell Out (Decca, 1967) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

The Who: The Who Sings My Generation (Decca, 1966) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

Hank Williams: 40 Greatest Hits (Polydor, 1978) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Sonny Boy Williamson: The Real Folk Blues (Chess, 1966) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Sonny Boy Williamson: This Is My Story (Chess, 1972) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

Jackie Wilson: Jackie Wilson's Greatest Hits (Brunswick, 1972) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

Jackie Wilson: The Jackie Wilson Story (Epic, 1983) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Howlin' Wolf: Chester Burnett A.K.A. Howlin' Wolf (Chess, 1972) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

Howlin' Wolf: Howlin' Wolf (Chess, 1962) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Howlin' Wolf: Moanin' in the Moonlight (Chess, 1958) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Stevie Wonder: Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 (Tamla, 1968) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Stevie Wonder: Looking Back (Motown, 1977) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library]

Tammy Wynette: Tammy's Greatest Hits (Epic, 1969) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Atlantic Rhythm & Blues, Vol. 3: 1955-1958 (Atlantic, 1985) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

The Best of Doo Wop Ballads (Rhino, 1989) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

The Best of Doo Wop Uptempo (Rhino, 1989) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

The Best of the Girl Groups: Volume 1 (Rhino, 1990) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

18 Original King Size Rhythm & Blues Hits (Columbia, 1967) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Eminem Presents: The Re-Up (Interscope, 2006) It's a crew album--of course it sucks. The depressing thing is how much. Obie Trice, the merry men of D-12, Shady Records never-was Stat Quo and newbies Ca$his and Bobby Creekwater, 50 Cent proving payback is a bitch--didn't one of them have a lyric to show off? On a record where all they do is brag about being big-timers who are down with Shady, even a few insights into cocaine packaging would tone things up considerably. The boss's beats tend toward ominoso rock-keyb marches like "Mosh" and "White America," with gunshots scattered here and there like pepper spray. But not only is this mode less fresh now, Eminem doesn't develop it, and the rhymes don't nearly justify its declamatory pomp. So the Em-50 duet "Jimmy Crack Corn," an egocentric return to the rhythms of the visionary anti-Bush "Square Dance," comes as a relief, as do the Akon and 50 remixes. But though Eminem's own rhymes meet his traditional polysyllabic standards, with a nice pass into the third person on the title song ("as sick as his music is, or was, still is, whatever"), only the final two minutes of the final track access the brilliance we once took for granted: "They don't see that I'm wounded/All they did was ballooned it/I'm sick of talking about these tattoos/Cartooned it/That's why I tuned it out." [Rolling Stone: 2]

A History of New Orleans Rhythm & Blues--Vol. 1 (1950-1958) (Rhino, 1987) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

A History of New Orleans Rhythm & Blues--Vol. 2 (1959-1962) (Rhino, 1987) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

It Will Stand: Minit Records 1960-1963 (EMI America, 1986) [CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Phil Spector's Greatest Hits (Warner/Spector, 1977) [CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Plague Songs (4AD, 2006) The ten plagues of Egypt were good for the Jews--brought down by Moses, Aaron, and their boss Jehovah to help those long-ago Middle East good guys get out from under. But when a British documentarian got grant money to commission songs about said plagues as part of her muddled re-enactment of the Exodus, what were her arty artistes to do? Make locusts and boils sound like liberation? Instead, Brian Eno and Laurie Anderson escape into depressive murmurs, Scott Walker and the Tiger Lillies offer competing Antony and the Johnsons imitations, wan London rapper Klashnekoff and typographically challenged soulster Cody ChestnuTT fulfill their quota, and King Creosote associates frogs with loneliness because they didn't ask him to write one about roses. At least Rufus Wainwright moves the firstborn-son action to Westchester. And thank G-d Stephin Merritt risks "necessary heresy." "Fleas fleas, STDs/All of Egypt on her knees"--that's the spirit. [Rolling Stone: 2]

Power of Soul: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix (Experience Hendrix, 2003) In which aging stars and young souls try to prove that Hendrix's compositions, as opposed to performances, will earn royalties forever. Songwriting wasn't Hendrix's strength, but don't blame him for this--he was too busy re-inventing the guitar to anticipate the tribute album. The two best tracks are by John Lee Hooker amd Stevie Ray Vaughan, both as dead as he was when it came out, and the main thing it proves is that Hendrix's guitar isn't inimitable, just unduplicatable. [Blender: 1]

Vee-Jay: The Definitive Collection (Shout! Factory, 2007) Before Motown, Chicago-based Vee-Jay was the biggest black-owned label of the rock and roll era, with a run of r&b and then pop hits stretching from Jimmy Reed's "High and Lonesome" in 1953 to the Dells' "Stay in My Corner" in 1965--and also included the Four Seasons' 1962 "Sherry" and, thanks to Capitol Records' initial stupidity, four of the first nine Beatles' songs to go top 40. But the label failed to survive these unlikely successes--by 1964 or so, it was said to be involved in sixty-four separate legal actions. Vee-Jay had no house style--just a&r man Calvin Carter, who favored the rougher strains of blues and gospel but appreciated every r&b and gospel style, and promo man Ewart Abner, who could schmooze anybody about anything and ended up president of Motown. Reed was its most prolific artist. Label-hopping blues primitivist John Lee Hooker had his biggest singles with Vee-Jay, and apostle of soul cool Jerry Butler his first. Carter also brought the world the supernal doowop of Pookie Hudson's Spaniels and the durable post-doowop of Marvin Junior's Dells. But all these artists are more efficiently accessed on their own collections. What's striking on this four-CD set is the one-shots: young Gladys Knight and aging "5" Royales, cult heroes Rosco Gordon and Pee Wee Crayton outdoing themselves, hot songwriter Hoyt Axton's hokum blues and future record exec Donnie Elbert's falsetto workout. Like most boxes, this one needs its familiar hits and is too long on high-generic collectors' items. But with the worst of eighty-five tracks a lounge-jazz "Exodus," a lot of people were clearly doing something right. [Rolling Stone: 3.5]

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