The two hundred and twenty-fifth album: #225 Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin IV
With this being the fourth of five Led Zeppelin albums on the list, I started off wondering whether the repetition had started to become a bit much and there wouldn't be enough for the album to offer something new in.
Mostly, what sets it apart is that later in the album, the album calms down, with Stairway to Heaven the big centerpiece, a fairly mellow number which doesn't have as much of an impact for me, but where I can see how it works far more effectively as a way to reach someone. Even when it does step up, it feels fairly sedate, an increase in energy without overdoing it. IN the end though, it feels like nothing in the album really sticks with me. I know I listened to it, but I doubt I'd recognise the songs if I heard them again.
The two hundred and twenty-fourth album: #224 Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Tarkus
Oh boy - another prog rock album with one side being a single twenty minute epic that feels jazz-infused improv a few bars in. There's some more structure to Tarkus than that implies, but it still feels like it lacks the focus of the really grand epics. There's some storytelling in here, but the lyrics don't fulfill that and the music feels more like an accompaniment to the liner images. The rest of the album, like some many prog rock albums, feels like a playground, trying to seem smarter than it might well be. There are some interesting experiments with instruments, but it feels like it's been done better, with more earned confidence - I can see how this could be your thing if you're into prog rock, but it's hard to do so when you feel the genre has shot past what makes it good.
The one hundred fourty-third TV show: #690 The X Factor
I'm not a fan of these singing competition reality shows, but The X-Factor feels like it's more off-putting than others in the type. It feels like it's all about stroking the judges' egos, having them belittle and play tricks as they compete, rather than actually being about the performers themselves. This may change in later seasons, but it's so strong in the first season that I watched that I was genuinely put off even after the first episodes, auditions that seemed set up to take too much advantage of people. It seems to be made to feed these egomaniacs, whether they play it up or not, and I wouldn't want to watch any more of it.
The two hundred and twenty-third album: #223 Don McLean - American Pie
Listening to the title track of the album, it really made much more sense to me. As a statement, it says a lot about Don McLean's point of view, a statement about his work as much as it's commemorative. It's still joyful and excited, not just sad about the day the music died, and it's that sort of celebration that carries through. The sensitive Vincent - the other notable song here - isn't jubilant, but it's so caring and sweet that it makes its own impact.
Everybody Loves Me, Baby is the oddball on the album, a jubilant, noisy number that's partially just people making noise. Through that contrast, Don McLean makes his point - that of the self serving, unaware annoying person - so much better. He is being over the top, but considering that if others would have recorded it this way, it might have been slightly more of a jubilant love songs rather than a complete send up like it feels here.
While not all instant classics, it feels like American Pie has a few tentpoles, and a number of thoughtful songs surrounding it, with plenty of different emotions portrayed in the album. It was a really enjoyable listen, a folk album that, like the best of them - really shows you what's happening and impressing those emotions on you without thinking.
The two hundred and twenty-second album: #220 Dolly Parton - Coat of Many Colors
I don't think that it's unfair to say that Dolly Parton has a sound, focused on a simple guitar backing to support her songs. Other instruments and harmonies come in, but it's those two that feature most heavily on most of her songs and changing it out for a bass guitar already feels like an interesting step to switch things up. In this case, that's not bad, as it works as a sound, but I have to admit it made Early Morning Breeze a favourite for me.
Instead, it gives a focus to her lyrics that carries through the album. The aforementioned Early Morning Breeze creates that image of a walk through nature in the early morning, or stepping out into the garden and enjoying nature. Others are clear love songs, sweet and effective, reflections on her childhood (including the titular track) and other slices of life. It's sweet and persuasive, with some amazing lyrics . It's an amazing album for that, and especially when it mixes things up more on the second half, the album is really enjoyable.
The two hundred and twenty-first album: #221 Elton John - Madman Across The Water
Listening to Madman Across The Water, I've somehow felt a bit underwhelmed. There are some big flourishes on the songs, but most of it feels like quite standard, synthy pop of the day. The lyrics are well written and thought out, but aren't as impactful on all of the songs - Indian Sunset's story probably feels like it gets told the best.
It's not that the album is bad - it just felt like none of it did anything for me. I see the quality, sure, but it doesn't feel like this has anything to reach me in it.
The two hundred and twentieth album: Can - Tago Mago
When you have an album of seven tracks that's seven minutes in length, you know you're going to get something experimental. This krautrock album goes to some weird places, piling on other psychedelic influences to create stream of consciousness music. Parts go from one area to the other, using candid performances, backwards recordings and candidly captured sounds of rehearsals and jam sessions. It's unsettling at times, a weird insight into the mind of what seems a weird group, and something I think I still struggle to define.
It's an interesting album, but the repetition over some of these long tracks gets quite tiresome, at which point it feels like the track gets thrown at you more than that you're actively listening to it - it just doesn't always have those hooks to keep grabbing your attention. It's a state of mind, an album that isn't necessarily great, but it's creative and different. I listened, I think I got part of it, but I see no reason to go back to it.
The two hundred and nineteenth album: #219 The Doors - L.A. Woman
L.A. Woman is another blues rock album from The Doors, but where that felt staid on the previously listed albm, there's something here that makes it more contemporary. Some songs are more uptempo and angry, but right now there's something soothing about a track like Cars Hiss By My Window, a blues track that comes along nicely and relaxes you. The titular L.A. Woman, aside from the its length, steps it up more, but even then it feels like an extended jam session rather than the more produced styles of rock that seem to be its contemporaries. It ends with Riders on the Storm, more produced, deliberate and even more a part of this relaxed mood music, with the backdrop of rain and calmer sounds.
The album has that vein throughout, some more laid back blues mixed with some psychedelic rock elements, but on the whole it's the perfect sound for a slow, warm corona Monday morning.
The two hundred and eighteenth album: #218 Yes - Fragile
There's a lot in Fragile that feels like it produces a real example of the prog rock genre. Heavy rock riff lightened with the electric organ, long, conceptual songs with a story it tells as it goes on mixed with short concepts - a rearranged version of Brahms is on the second track, for example. It shows intelligence and thought put into an album that you don't necessarily see in other genres.
Even the short songs here are part of the setup for the longer epics, and with the changes in the longer songs it seems more for the form sometimes than something that was fully intended, but I guess it makes sense for release aims - Long-Distance Runaround would have worked well as its own single, a distillation of the album in a track, while also matching with the tracks around it.
All of this gives you an album where you get lost in the tracks, and the phases in them are as important as the changes in the track listing that you see. It's a good listen - energetic in places, but also contemplative, not going all out but experimenting a lot to create a distinct sound that does well in telling a story.
The two hundred and seventeenth album: #217 The Beach Boys - Surf's Up
There's something odd about this album. The first seven tracks fall into the band's surf rock feel, nice poppy songs that build on their heritage but add more meaningful lyrics. It's decent, a nice move to get something more out of it, but I could see why it wouldn't have had as much of an impact.
Then, for the last three songs, Brian Wilson's personal tracks come in. The three songs are sombre and more contemplative, the harmonies working really well to create a pessimistic feeling, darker than what came before and this completely different direction to what came before. They're what make you think in this album, perhaps not their strength, but it's a far more interesting direction for this music to go.
The two hundred sixteenth album: #216 John Lennon - Imagine
Slowly, the influence of the Beatles comes to an end, with only an album by Paul McCartney with the Wings coming up on the list. John Lennon's Imagine, which opens the album, feels so overused for me now - a lovely ballad about world peace without real solutions but just a "what if" that gets overused now in all sorts of "Let's just get along" contexts where that seems easier than taking action. I wouldn't expect a song to do that, but it feels like its current use puts a shadow on a song that works that well.
It's followed by a far jauntier Crippled Inside, a country rock ballad that is quite nice, but not as impactful. The album then goes between protest songs, ballads and prog rock songs. As much as the album has its sweet moments and moments of peace, there are as many where the anger comes through in it - indirect if not outspoken, with How Do You Sleep being the obvious reference - and it creates a more complex feeling album - not undercutting the message, but enhancing this being a personal album from a real person, rather than some more fabricated point.
I was worried going into this album based on the title track, but there's a lot more nuance to it than I expected, and there's a lot here still of what I liked from the Beatles.