The one hundredth classical performance: #738 Constant Lambert - The Rio Grande
There is, of course, not a clear delineation between classical and 'modern' music and even where there is some distinction, the two influence each other. While it has a full orchestra and chorus, this sounds and feels distinctly different from the other pieces. It's more like a movie soundtrack in its energy and it has a big jazz influence in its sound and how it plays. To be fair, that's probably just as much part of the way we randomly jump around the list. Seeing how this feels this could also be a backing soundtrack for Merry Melodies or another cartoon series, the amount of energy it has is amazing while it feels it takes you through a story at the same time.
The two hundred and fifty-third album: #253 Milton Nascimento & Lo Borges - Clube da Esquina
As I've seen before on this list, the Brazilian music scene has a tendency to take the prevalent music of the day and make it their own, mixing elements in a way that doesn't always get done in other countries. For Clube da Esquina, that's a case of taking their existing jazz and bossa nova route and mixing in contemporary rock, mixing in some rock ballads and psychedelic rock and bringing that experimentation into their own context.
What you get is a fusion of styles that's hard to place in what we know, but gives a nice, relaxed vibe that's pleasant to listen to. In the era of double albums an hour-long album is already feeling less excessive, but regardless of that it doesn't drag as other albums of this length tend to, offering a nice variety even as it's an album that works as well in the background as something to listen to while working.
The two hundred and fifty-second album: #252 Hugh Masekela - Home Is Where The Music Is
Here we go again. I've talked about disliking jazz albums before - they really don't work for me as these lengthy pieces that you're listening to more or less on your own with an album like this and the rise of rock seemed to have put a stop to them. The afrobeat inspiration doesn't really come through in the album either, or if it does it doesn't give it enough of a kick to stand out in my mind - only one track really feels like it, and it feels like a looser improvised section at the end rather than a part of the same album. Some bits are quite well performed, but the jazz sound never fills me with that good a feeling, especially with its 76 minute runtime.
The ninety-ninth classical recording: #305 Robert Schumann - Piano Quintet
It sounds like this work got popular after it was composed as a known and loved piece of chamber music. Although I can't entirely judge this, I can see why it could be under these circumstances. While it goes through different emotions - the second movement is the most dour, based on a funeral march - there is quite an upbeat feel to most of it, an energy and excitement that lifts your spirits. The ascending and descending scales of the third movement grab your attention with the intensity of the piece really coming through.
The two hundred and fifty-first album: #251 Lou Reed - Transformer
I don't think I really knew how David Bowie's influence towered over music in the early seventies. This album is clearly Lou Reed's, a follow up to his work with Velvet Underground, but it also feels aggressively glam in places with tracks where the pop genre is really coming through. Perfect Day features as the third track and it's such a good pop song that it continues to stand well here. Following up with the very rocky Hangin' Round, almost a throwback, shows the range this album is aiming for.
The tracks still focus on the lyrics, which feel just as strong - Perfect Day and Walk on the Wild Side both show this as there is a lot of meaning in them, and throughout the album addresses issues that were controversial at the time. Following Candy on an earlier Velvet Underground album, there are several tracks that address LGBT icons, with the ones that (at least for the time) positively focus on trans characters. I can't say whether they still work in the current context, but it feels like it speaks of it quite tenderly. David Bowie's image, at least at the time, feels like it influences this part too - perhaps not through the lyrics, but by encouraging its content. However it worked later, this album on its own works like a lovely piece of music.
The ninety-first comic: #431 Life In Hell
Life In Hell is Matt Groening's comic, started over a decade before he created the Simpsons. Other than showing a few character designs that (vaguely) match the design of those characters, there isn't really much of an overlap there, with Life In Hell aiming for a less family friendly vibe even if it stays within newspaper boundaries. Rather, it is a collection of conversations or shorter stories between some set characters, or one panel gags that comment on a situation. I believe it's also one of the first to feature a gay couple without that ever being remarked on (they might be brothers, but there's clearly a relationship here). The reason was so Matt Groening couldn't be accused of bias or taking sides, but it does feel like a small step.
The comics are fun, at times dated as it reports on current events, and often enough a bit bizarre. Not something I'd chase down further, but as they a number of them currently online at http://lifeinhellarchives.tumblr.com/ it's easy enough to check out.
The ninetieth comic: #786 Berlin: City of Stones
Berlin: City of Stones, and its follow up works (which I've read part of as well) is mostly set in 1929, around the time of the great recession and the events leading up to the nazis taking control of Germany. Through it, we read the story of several people as they live their lives in Berlin through these events. The main thread is the love story of Kurt, a disaffected journalist, and Marthe, an art student. They live their life while trying to stay unaffected directly - with enough resources to not have to worry too much about what's going on.
We meet a lot of different groups that are more so. One family split by the ideological differences, which leads to the mother being killed in the Blutmai massacre and the girl living on the streets. A later work introduces several black jazz musicians who have to live in this racist environment while having more privileges thanks to their work in a somewhat more known night club.
It's a dark and daunting view of a world that makes you reflect more than anything on how to survive in a world where all this is going on, how you'd ignore or deal with certain things while trying to get through it. There's occasional decadence that seems unjustified, violence that would have happened but pushed away and other challenges. The simple style (skin colour is implied more than shown) adds to the bleak feel of the world and the really sets the tone for a look at a world that seemed far less alien than I thought.
The two hundred and fiftieth album: #250 Yes - Close to the Edge
As I think we've come to expect from Yes and other prog rock bands, this 43 minute album contains three tracks. It opens, in fact, with the eighteen minute behemoth Close to the Edge, which starts with the sounds of birds and nature before coming together into a set of songs that stays remarkably coherent throughout - the throughline is there, unlike a lot of other lengthy songs like it, while moving through different movements with their different moods. It's a far more impressive feat than most, feeling in how it's built like a classical piece while staying a rock number. The album pulls off this amazing feat of keeping the three tracks focused like this - with an identity they don't lose - and never wears out their welcome. This might be the first album with these long tracks that really succeeded at this for me and I'm glad to hear that it can be done.
The ninety-eighth classical recording: #108 Domenico Scarlatti - Keyboard Sonatas
Looking at the works that surround this one on the list, we're at a point where classical music has really left the choral and is moving on, but isn't at the bombastic stages we later get. Scarlatti's keyboard sonatas are delicate, not using fancy tricks to impress but instead playing beautiful, light pieces that impact with a relative simplicity.
The list only gives a selection of the over 500 keyboard sonatas written by Scarlatti, but they already give the impression of someone working on something delicate and sweet, with a clear view of what he's doing with his works, but creating beauty out of all of that.
The two hundred and fourty-ninth album: #249 Deep Purple - Made in Japan
I listened to Deep Purple a few weeks ago with their album Machinehead and this album duplicates quite a bit of that. Recorded live at a few Japanese concerts, it seems the draw isn't necessarily the songs (a lot of those we've heard before) but the live performance in a double length album. As you'd expect, this leads to more extravagant solos, but also a lot of energy that comes from the feeling of having the live crowd there.
It doesn't resolve the issue I had with the album a few weeks ago though - at songs of this length, you need something that holds them together, and here it even more feels like they drift too much - the live interaction making that worse. In the end, it feels like there's some good rock in here, but it lacks a real identity to hang it from.
The two hundred and fourty-eighth album: #248 Slade - Slayed?
Slayed? is a hard rock album. Some of it has some glam rock influences and a song like 'Feel So Fine' draws on earlier rock influences, but so much of it follows the hard rock standards that it's hard to say more than that. I didn't really get drawn to any specific songs, the album oddly mostly being a presence in the background while it never gave me that feeling of reaching special heights.
It's the only album of Slade's that's on the list, and it works as a good example of where else the rock genre stands, but I didn't feel this soared to greater heights.