One CEO’s 50 (or so) favorite pop albums

seal1

Inspired by Brad’s fascinating and very New Wave-ish post “My 49 Favorite Pop Albums”, I decided to try my hand at listing the same. One difficulty, it turns out, is defining “pop”. Brad didn’t list Radiohead’s “OK Computer” (one of my Top 10 pop/rock albums) because he figured it was too proggy, which is hard to disagree with. But I have it in my list, and also included a couple more albums that are certainly in the realm of prog: “Queen II”, “Point of Know Return”, and “A Momentary Lapse of Reason”. But, on the whole, I think most everything here fits on the “pop” spectrum, even if it veers into rocky territory (Muse, Journey, Soundgarden) on occasion.

Also, I could have easily included several more albums by Sinatra and Torme, and I feel a bit guilty to not have anything by, say, Nancy Wilson, Sarah Vaughn, Rosemary Clooney, or Nat King Cole. But I’ve tried to capture a certain breadth chronologically while being true to what I like and return to. And that is a key criteria: all of these are albums I revisit and never tire of.  Finally, it might be surprising that the only artist who shows up here three times is Seal. But no Beatles? Rolling Stones? Simon and Garfunkel? Lady GaGa? Go figure!

1950s-60s:
Frank Sinatra: IN THE WEE SMALL HOURS (1955)
Frank Sinatra: SONGS FOR SWINGIN’ LOVERS! (1956)
Mel Tormé: IT’S A BLUE WORLD (1956)
Roy Orbison: IN DREAMS (1963)
Mel Tormé: THAT’S ALL (1965)

1970s:
Van Morrison: MOONDANCE (1970)
Elton John: ELTON JOHN (1970)
Queen: QUEEN II (1974)
Queen: NIGHT AT THE OPERA (1975)
Kansas: POINT OF KNOW RETURN (1977)
Electric Light Orchestra: OUT OF THE BLUE (1977)

1980s:
Journey: ESCAPE (1981)
ABBA: THE VISITORS (1981)
Asia: ASIA (1982)
The Police: SYNCHRONICITY (1983)
Big Country: THE CROSSING (1983)
Mr. Mister: WELCOME TO THE REAL WORLD (1985)
John Fogerty: CENTERFIELD (1985)
The Moody Blues: THE OTHER SIDE OF LIFE (1986)
Sting: NOTHING LIKE THE SUN (1987)
Pink Floyd: A MOMENTARY LAPSE OF REASON (1987)
Sam Phillips: THE INDESCRIBABLE WOW (1988)
Kate Bush: THE SENSUAL WORLD (1989)
Van Morrison: AVALON SUNSET (1989)

1990s:
The Choir: CIRCLE SLIDE (1990)
George Michael: LISTEN WITHOUT PREJUDICE, VOL. 1 (1990)
U2: ACHTUNG BABY (1991)
Seal: SEAL (1991)
Tori Amos: LITTLE EARTHQUAKES (1992)
Maria McKee: YOU GOTTA SIN TO GET SAVED (1993)
Chris Isaak: SAN FRANCISCO DAYS (1993)
The Cranberries: EVERYONE ELSE IS DOING IT, SO WHY CAN’T WE? (1993)
Sarah McLachlan: FUMBLING TOWARDS ECSTASY (1993)
Seal: SEAL (1994)
Portishead: DUMMY (1994)
Soundgarden: SUPERUNKNOWN (1994)
Jeff Buckley: GRACE (1994)
Jars of Clay: JARS OF CLAY (1995)
The Mavericks: MUSIC FOR ALL OCCASIONS (1995)
Duncan Sheik: DUNCAN SHEIK (1996)
Radiohead: OK COMPUTER (1997)
Seal: HUMAN BEING (1998)
Burlap to Cashmere: ANYBODY OUT THERE? (1998)
Moby: PLAY (1999)

2000 on:
Martin Sexton: LIVE WIDE OPEN (2002)
Muse: BLACK HOLES AND REVELATIONS (2006)
Brandi Carlile: THE STORY (2007)
A Fine Frenzy: ONE CELL IN THE SEA (2007)
Sia: SOME PEOPLE HAVE REAL PROBLEMS (2008)
Sara Bareilles: KALEIDOSCOPE HEART (2010)
Lake Street Dive: BAD SELF PORTRAITS (2014)
Kevin Max: BROKEN TEMPLES (2015)

Queen — “We Will Rock You” (Fast version)

It’s been on live albums before, but here’s a version from Queen’s last BBC sessions of the 70s: “We Will Rock You” done faster than usual.

Queen on Air: The Complete BBC Sessions will be released on Nov. 4 in a double-disc CD edition, triple-disc vinyl, digital or a deluxe six-disc package with extra performances and interviews.

CD1
Session 1:
1. My Fairy King
2. Keep Yourself Alive
3. Doing All Right
4. Liar
Session 2:
5. See What A Fool I’ve Been
6. Keep Yourself Alive
7. Liar
8. Son And Daughter
Session 3:
9. Ogre Battle
10. Modern Times Rock’n’Roll
11. Great King Rat
12. Son And Daughter

CD 2
Session 4:
1. Modern Times Rock’n’Roll
2. Nevermore
3. White Queen (As It Began)
Session 5:
4. Now I’m Here
5. Stone Cold Crazy
6. Flick Of The Wrist
7. Tenement Funster
Session 6:
8. We Will Rock You
9. We Will Rock You (Fast)
10. Spread Your Wings
11. It’s Late
12. My Melancholy Blues

An asteroid named after Freddie Mercury to mark 70th anniversary of singer’s birth

Farrokh Bulsara was born on this day in 1946; he died on November 24, 1991. Freddie Mercury would have been 70 years old if still alive today. From RollingStone.com:

To mark what would have been Freddie Mercury’s 70th birthday, Queen guitarist and actual astrophysicist Brian May announced that an asteroid orbiting around Mars and Jupiter has been named after the singer.

“I’m happy to be able to announce that the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center has today designated Asteroid 17473, discovered 1991, in Freddie’s name, timed to honor his 70th Birthday,” May said in a statement. “Henceforth this object will be known as Asteroid 17473 Freddiemercury.”

Not content with the Queen singer sharing his last name with a planet, May teamed with the International Astronomical Union to reveal Mercury’s asteroid at a Montreux, Switzerland celebration for Mercury, who died in November 1991, roughly around the time Belgian astronomer Henri Debehogne first discovered the asteroid.

Early Queen, especially “Queen II” (my favorite Queen album as a whole), incorporated many elements of progressive rock, featuring all sorts of interesting chords, time changes, and wild lyrical material. A perfect example is “Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke”, penned by Mercury, which is based on the singer’s obsession with the mid-19th century painting of the same name by English artist Richard Dadd:

“Innuendo”, the group’s final album prior to Mercury’s death, had some prog-gish moments, notably on the lengthy and adventuresome title cut, which featured a stunning flamenco guitar solo by the great Steve Howe:

Although Mercury was flamboyant and extroverted on stage, he was quite shy in private (and rarely did interviews), and some of his reflective nature is found in a large number of songs, including the rather gut-wrenching cut “Who Wants To Live Forever?”, from the 1986 album “A Kind of Magic”:

Science Fiction, Prog, and Prog Metal: A Lecture

Arjen, Lego Style
Arjen, Lego Style

I had the great privilege of lecturing for John J. Miller’s college course, Hon252, THE GOOD, THE TRUE, AND IRON MAIDEN.  If you’re interested, here’s my lecture on “To Tame a Land,” and the connection between science fiction and progressive music.  From Yes and ELP to Cosmograf and Aryeon.

iron miller

LSD and the best cover ever of “Bohemian Rhapsody”

LSD = Lake Street Dive.

This is totally hilarious and completely awesome. One of the greatest covers I have ever seen and heard! Hat tip to Carl for alerting us to this.

A few comments from Carl:

I discovered Lake Street Dive via the work of lead singer Rachael Price, who is a fabulously gifted jazz singer. While still in a teen, in 2003, Price received an honorable mention at the Montreux Jazz Festival’s International Jazz Vocal Competition and the following year she was a semi-finalist and the youngest competitor in the history of the Thelonious Monk Institute Vocal Competition. Despite her impeccable jazz chops, she never received the sort of adulation heaped upon female jazz singers such as Diane Krall. In 2004 she began performing in Lake Street Dive, consisting of classmates from New England Conservatory of Music in Boston: Mike “McDuck” Olson (trumpet, guitar), Bridget Kearney (upright bass), and Mike Calabrese (drums). The band was the brain child of Olson and was originally envisioned to be a “free country band” (!). All four members have a deep background in both classical and jazz music, and all four have made known their love for 1960s R&B, soul, rock, and related music. And, in fact, the band first started to gain traction when a self-shot video of their performance of Michael Jackson’s “I Want You Back” went viral.

So, hardly a prog band! But anyone who prefers their pop to be quirky, smart, occasionally edgy, often fun, and always played with impeccable chops and taste, Lake Street Dive is the band for you. And they do have fun taste in cover songs, ranging from ABBA to Fleetwood Mac to Hall & Oates (their version of “Rich Girl” is smokin’, as they say) and Paul McCartney.

Their cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody” is part of a series of Halloween vidoes they’ve produced in recent years. On one hand, it is quite campy (perfectly fitting for a Freddie Mercury classic) and quite fun, but also impressively sang and played, with some rather brilliant instrumentation. At the heart of it all, as always, are the harmonies and the lead vocals of Price. (Anyone interested in 3:30 of vocal bliss should watch her sing “What Am I Doing Here”).