When Guns N Roses burst upon the scene, I was 12 years old and pretty much immersed in classic rock. The Beatles were my template, and from there I branched out to the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Who, Pink Floyd, etc.

And although there were individual newer artists I enjoyed at the time (Michael Jackson, Prince and Bruce Springsteen being a few examples), no band had really captured my imagination like those legendary bands had.

Until I heard the song Sweet Child O’Mine, that is. That iconic riff was unlike anything I had heard before, so sharp, so melodic. And the voice of Axl Rose was a one-of-kind juggernaut, a true original. Able to hit screeching highs and gut-wrenching lows (just listen to his voice on songs like It’s So Easy and Locomotive, for example), Rose has a one-of-a-kind set of pipes, or at least had them in the late 80s and early 90s.

The entire band evoked streetwise swagger – a don’t f**k with us mentality that carried over into interviews, pictures and videos. If you listen to interviews of the band before Appetite for Destruction broke in the mainstream, these guys knew they were going to be stars. They bristled at weak interview questions, dissed contemporary bands, swore like drunken sailors, just basically couldn’t care less about kissing anyone’s ass or what anyone thought about them. And that’s one of the many things I LOVED about them.

All that is well and good, but you have to deliver the goods – and boy did they ever.

Guns N Roses was the first band I can remember that generally felt dangerous. I mean, I had to hide their albums (well cassettes back then) from my mom in fear the parental advisory sticker would be discovered. One of my friends had a similar experience with a different band, and all his metal albums were confiscated. He came home with Madonna’s Immaculate Collection and Elton John’s Greatest Hits Volume III and tried to pass them off as cool. Nice try, my friend (you know who you are lol).

The songs depicted the slimy side of LA life – the Sunset Strip. Booze, clubs, hookers, general bad hombres, and for a 12-year-old sheltered boy from Pennsylvania, it was a completely foreign world to me. Yet as raunchy and misogynistic as they could be, they (and Rose – always a complex individual – in particular) had a softer, melodic side. It’s hard to believe a guy that’s singing such a heartfelt, beautiful ballad he wrote for his soon-to-be (short-lived) wife, also sang “See me hit you, you fall down” and “Why don’t you just, f**k off” earlier in the album on “It’s So Easy,” which despite its message has a killer bass line to open up and some of Rose’s most snarling singing. He sounds pissed, which is a common theme. Pissed at law enforcement (Out Ta Get Me), angry at the city they called home (Welcome to the Jungle), the drugs that surrounded them (Mr. Brownstone), the women that hounded them (It’s So Easy, My Michelle, Rocket Queen).

The band conveyed a primal, raw emotion, which was a welcome change from contemporary bands, groups like Bon Jovi and Poison that GNR absolutely loathed (with good reason, they sucked!!!).

If you really want to hear what Guns N Roses is all about in one fell swoop, Rocket Queen is the track you must check out. It’s the quintessential GNR song and one of my top ten favorite songs ever – by anyone. The first half chugs along with the steam of a deranged locomotive careening off the tracks, and Rose is in super misogynistic “I can do whatever I like” mode. Hell, he’s even heard having sex with drummer Steven Adler’s girlfriend throughout the song (sorry Steve!!!), until we get to an unexpected 180-degree turn. Just over halfway through, the song breaks down and a new Slash riff emerges, one more powerful than the opening one and from it an almost entirely new song is born. This one shows off the band’s sensitive side, with Axl away from his “I hate women” stance and transforming back into the sweet, tender “Sweet Child” Axl. Singing lines like “If you need a shoulder, or if you need a friend, I’ll be here standing until the bitter end” and the incredibly emotional closing line of “All I ever wanted was for you to know that I care” and this is GNR’s many faces wrapped up in a six-minute bow. I’ve always viewed it as their best song, and they have many candidates for that title.


With Rose and guitarist Slash they had two bonafide megastars, but the other guys in the band were just as important, namely rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin and bassist Duff McKagan, since they were the other guys writing the songs. Stradlin in particular was of tremendous import – he knew Axl Rose the longest from their days as Indiana buddies. They both moved to LA and were in a band called Hollywood Rose together. Stradlin was also Axl’s songwriting equal, and along with Slash gave the Gunners a two-pronged guitar attack, much like the Rolling Stones have boasted since the 60s. McKagan exuded a California surfer cool (although he originally hailed from Seattle). He and Adler formed such a tight, powerful rhythm section.

Released last week, the 30th anniversary super deluxe box set of Appetite for Destruction is a treasure to behold. Taking the music part out of the equation (we’ll get to that in a bit), the box is extremely well done. It’s got all the bells and whistles you’d want from a box of this nature (and price, coming in at around a not cheap $150) – posters, replicas of old flyers and concert tickets, stickers, and a thick hard-cover book which has never-before-seen photos of the band, along with articles and press kits sent out to promote the album. Very fascinating stuff.

There are five discs housed in the box – four audio CDs and a Blue-Ray audio DVD. Haven’t watched or listened to the Blue Ray disc yet but have scoured the four cds front to back several times already.

The first disc is just a straight-up remaster of the album, which is an improvement on the sound quality. Some remasters crank up the loudness to the point you lose a lot of the bottom end (bass and drums) but they seem to have the balance just right here. In fact, much of the guitar interplay between Slash and Stradlin is much more upfront than it was before. Take the song “Anything Goes,” which I always viewed as one of the few filler tracks on the album, this new remaster brings the guitars to the forefront and makes it a better listen.

The second disc rounds up B-sides and live tracks from the era, and also includes three of the four studio songs from the 1988 EP Lies, omitting the incredibly controversial “One in A Million” and replacing it with a cool, acoustic version of “Move to the City,” something that they should have done when the album was released and saved themselves an overload of bad publicity.

Discs 3 and 4 are where the treasure trove of unreleased material lies, including their first recording experience in the Sound City studios back in 1986. They laid down most of the Appetite tracks there for the first time, and you can see how powerful they were in the early form. Some were more finished than others at the time, with Paradise City completely lacking its intro and Welcome to the Jungle and Rocket Queen missing complete sections, but the emotion and power are all there to behold. You also get a glimpse of songs that weren’t released until Use Your Illusion five years later, including two beautiful early versions of November Rain – one a ten-minute piano dirge with some passionate singing by Rose and another shorter, five-minute acoustic version. You can tell that Rose knew he had a monster song on his hands here, but he wasn’t going to put it out until he had it exactly right. There are also a few interesting covers – Elvis’ Heartbreak Hotel becomes a bar-band boogie, while the Stones’ Jumpin Jack Flash is more a traditional cover. And there are also a few songs that they never came back to again, one such track has the working title “New Work Tune” and while it has no vocals, the acoustic track has enough twists and turns musically that it’s worth the listen.

To sum things up, this is one hell of a box set. The sound quality is superb and the extras make it worth your while. Plus, with some other box sets, you may listen to the outtakes discs once or twice, but I know I’ll be coming back to every disc on this set. Well done, GNR. “You know where you are?????????”









The third installment in a series of EPs (although this one has officially been deemed a full length album, but it runs 31 minutes, just slightly longer than the previous two) finds Trent Reznor collaborator Atticus Ross in fine form.

The previous two EPs, Add Violence and Not the Actual Events gave us what we expect from Nine Inch Nails, something Reznor didn’t deliver on his previous full-length Hesitation Marks. I never could get into that album because the songs sounded too much alike, and that’s a big no-no in Sod World.

Nine Inch Nails works best when they combine their industrial/ambient leanings with heavy guitar, and on Bad Witch they do a nice job of this. Opener Shit Mirror (gotta love the positive Reznor titles LOL) is heavy and catchy, leading into the more synth-driven “Ahead of Ourselves” which gives a scathing view of the American landscape today.

Throughout the album, Reznor plays the saxophone and it’s the featured instrument on the “Play the Goddamned Part,” one of two instrumental tracks of the six.

“God Break Down the Door” and album closer “Over and Out” find Reznor singing in a David Bowie croon, as a tribute to his longtime friend and former collaborator. And with the presence of the saxophone in both of them, they sound like they could have been outtakes from Bowie’s final album, Blackstar.

Overall, these three short collections of music are highly recommended. I like this one the best, followed by Events and then Add Violence. But if you take the best tracks off all three, they really could have made one killer NIN album.

Sod rating: ****


Ratings scale

*Vomit inducing

**Sucks ass, but has a few redeeming moments

***Solid effort

****Excellent, a few flaws

*****Classic, two thumbs way the hell up


It all seemed so perfect back in the mid 1980s. That’s when my love affair with baseball and the New York Mets began.

And believe it or not, at that time, the Mets – and not the Yankees – were the true kings of New York. Pitcher Dwight Gooden had a mural on the entire side of a building in Times Square for several years. Guys like Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter and Lenny Dykstra were household names. And while those teams probably underachieved a little bit (only one World Series win despite winning at least 90 games in six of seven years, with the other year being an 87-win season), they were fun to watch.

Since then, there have really only been three pockets of success for this franchise – 1997 through 2000 (with star catcher Mike Piazza joining the team in 1998 to give the organization a true jolt), 2006 to 2008 (which is hard to count since 2007 and 2008 both ended in epic September collapses, but at least the team was talented and more importantly, watchable), and finally a few months in both 2015 and 2016 that ended with playoff appearances. That’s been it, and in between has been losing. And more losing. And losers, starting at the top with the horrible Wilpon ownership group.

This year has been one of the most frustrating seasons I can remember, mainly because it started with so much promise. New manager Mickey Callaway seemed to bring a fresh perspective (or so we thought) from old geezer Terry Collins (always thought that guy looked like a garden gnome and wondered how anybody could take him seriously).


They started the season 11-1 and with the Yankees stumbling out of the gate during those first two weeks, Met fans were actually taunting Yankee fans (dumb move, idiots). Soon enough, in typical Met fashion, it all came crashing down. While the starting rotation remains pretty strong (with the exception of the godawful Jason Vargas), the bullpen has coughed up leads like no other. It’s like these guys drink an entire bottle of Ipecac before each outing, they’re gagging so much. The defense is horrid. If they inserted a bunch of cardboard cutouts in the infield and outfield, they’d likely catch the ball more. The offense? Offensive of course. These guys couldn’t hit if you gave them an entire redwood tree as a bat. They’ve gone 21-46 since that 11-1 start. That’s a winning percentage of .368. This weekend, they’re battling the Miami Marlins – a team that’s pretty much made it no secret they’re tanking this year for better draft positioning – for last place in the NL East. And last night they got blown out 8-2. The Marlins are younger and flat out better than this collection of shit stains.

I think much of the problem would be solved if the Wilpons just sold the team, but I’m not convinced that’s happening anytime soon, so Mets fans are stuck.

The other day, after another putrid performance by the bullpen against the Pirates (Mets led 3-0 after 7 and of course lost), I did something that I usually don’t do until after a bad season. I got out my 1986 World Series championship DVDs and put in the video for Game 3. Lenny Dykstra’s leadoff homer against Oil Can Boyd ignited a four-run rally in the first and the Mets were well on their way back from a 2-0 series deficit. Still makes me feel the same way it did when I was 11. I’ll be 43 in August and I’m starting to feel like this will be the only championship I witness in my lifetime – it’s that bad of an organization. My son will be 2 next month, and maybe I should just have steer clear of these guys, save himself a lifetime of heartache.

Yet, there I will be tonight, following a meaningless game between two scrub teams. Because that’s what fans do. I never have gotten people that bail on their teams when they suck – the few years the Mets have actually done well were so sweet precisely because I watched them during the years of sorry ineptitude. Maybe one day, I’ll be rewarded again. But I’m not holding my breath…..


I know we’re two weeks into 2018, but since I get most of my music for the year around Christmas (yes, I’m one of the few people that still buys CDs), I’ve spent a good deal of the last two weeks digesting new music. I also just realized it’s been about two years since I’ve posted anything on the blog. Lot going on, and with two little ones, just don’t have the free time (or any) that I used to.

2017 wasn’t the best year for music, but it wasn’t all that bad. There have been years where I had a clear No. 1 choice for my top spot, but this year it was a bit tough to pick. So here’s what I’ve come up with, and I’ll even include honorable mentions at the end of the post.


10. Beck, Colors

When we last heard from Beck Hansen, he released the Grammy-winning Morning Phase. It certainly was a surprise winner, and an album I rarely go back to. Give me upbeat, eclectic Beck over the melancholy, depressing Beck any day of the week. To me, Morning Phase was just a rehash of the superior Sea Change, released nearly a decade before. At the time, Beck said he was working on a more upbeat album at the same time, and it took him five years to complete it. The result is Colors, perhaps his biggest foray into dance-pop. Tracks like “Up All Night,” “Dreams,” “Colors” and “I’m So Free” are immediately hummable dance ditties, while the piano-dominated “Dear Life” has an almost Beatlesque quality to it. Don’t think this one will win any awards, but it’s an infinitely more fun record to listen to. And unlike the last one, I’ve gone back to it several times already.


9. Liam Gallagher, As You Were

Since the break-up of Oasis nearly a decade ago, Liam Gallagher proceeded with his career like that event literally didn’t occur. He formed the band Beady Eye with the members of Oasis not named Noel Gallagher and put out a pair of albums that had some decent moments but couldn’t help but sound like Oasis-lite.

For his first proper solo album, the junior Gallagher has teamed with uber-producer Greg Kurstin and come up with a set of melodic, introspective power pop tunes. And while Oasis fans would love to see the brothers get the band back together, this album proves Liam is more than capable of making it on his own.


8. Arcade Fire, Everything Now

The Canadian indie rockers hit critical (and eventually, commercial) gold with their first four releases – Funeral, Neon Bible, The Suberbs and Reflektor.

Their fifth release was a more polarizing affair, achieving a modest 66 (out of 100) on the critical aggregate site Metacritic. Some of the critical reviews were a bit harsh, with the band accused of having not much left to say or relying too much on the often disco-fied sound included in Reflektor.

And while I’ll admit it’s not quite as strong as the band’s previous output, I still love this album, aside from a track or two. The first half of the album contains the more upbeat “disco funk” type tracks (“Everything Now, “Signs of Life”), but the back end unearths a few emotional gems like “Put Your Money on Me.”

The musicianship, as always, is tight, as are the vocals of Win Butler and wife Regine Chassagne. Definitely recommend it.



7. Gorillaz, Humanz

The fifth album from Blur frontman Damon Albarn’s ‘virtual’ band Gorillaz dropped seven years after the last one did.

And while the last couple albums had Albarn’s fingerprints all over them, he took a bit of a step back on this one, letting his many collaborators get their turns fronting the ‘band.’

Gorillaz was always a project that allowed Albarn to explore his dancier, hip-hop side, and this album does that to a T. There are guest rappers galore like Vince Staples, De La Soul, Danny Brown and Pusha T, as well as a number of lesser-known R&B singers singing lead.

The only Albarn solo contribution here is “Busted and Blue,” which is also the slowest track here. Easily could have been on an Albarn solo album, as it doesn’t fit with the rest of the material.

The big headliner on the set is the final track “We Got the Power,” which brings together former archrivals Albarn and Noel Gallagher for a two-minute tour-de-force victory lap of the Britpop era. Best song on the set, but far from the only highlight.


6. Foo Fighters, Concrete and Gold

Dave Grohl and company returned in 2017 with a sturdy collection of tunes and an A-list of guest musicians for the Foos’ ninth album.

The set kicks off with an initially quiet acoustic number called “T-Shirt” which morphs into a monster arena-rock singalong chorus before abruptly ending in less then 90 seconds. Second track  “Run” is one of two powerhouse singles on the album, evoking the loud-soft dynamics reminiscent of Grohl’s former band Nirvana.

“The Sky is a Neighborhood” is the even better (in my estimation) second single, paying tribute to rock’s many fallen heroes with outstanding backing vocals by (among others) Allison Mosshart of the Kills and the Dead Weather.

Megastar guests include Justin Timberlake (backing vocals on “Make it Right”) and Paul McCartney (drums on the Taylor Hawkins-sung “Sunday Rain”). The album flows nicely, although sags a bit in the middle, as the album is frontloaded with the best songs overall. A near home run, but a booming double instead.


5. Marilyn Manson, Heaven Upside Down

Can you really call Marilyn Manson a shock rocker anymore? Not sure the term ever really fit anyway, especially when the ridiculous media made him a scapegoat for the Columbine shootings at the turn of the century, an event that severely hurt his career.

Manson has never really gone away, although his albums aren’t as anticipated as they once were at his heyday.

While he may not be “shocking” anymore, he certainly still does rock, and he’s hit a bit of a career renaissance working with collaborator Tyler Bates. Their first album together The Pale Emperor was a bit bluesier and didn’t have as much of an industrial edge as the latest effort, which is much heavier overall. It definitely hearkens back to Manson’s heyday and serves as a bit of a cross between Antichrist Superstar and Mechanical Animals. The first-half of the album is superb with crunching industrial rock (“Tatooed In Reverse”, “Say10”, “We Know Where You Fucking Live”) along with a creepy Manson love song (Kill4Me, which has been the album’s biggest single).

It slumps a bit with the overlong “Saturnalia”, but ends with a fury (“Threats of Romance” is a menacing album closer).


4. Mastodon, Emperor of Sand

Damn, Mastodon is a fine metal band.

I mean, they’ve never put out anything I haven’t enjoyed thoroughly and their latest is no exception.

The last two albums kind of went away from their old formula of big music surrounded by an album-encompassing topic or theme, but the concept album has returned here.

With a few band members going through traumatic times with deaths in the family, the theme of death and how one fights and comes to terms with it is the subject dealt with in every song.

The songs themselves are shorter and more concise than in past concept-heavy offerings, so it’s taking a bit of the last two album’s ‘songs first’ approach and marrying it with the old ‘bigger is better’ theme. Whatever it is, it works seemlessly. And to boot, after this album was released in March, they put out a four-song EP called “Cold Dark Place” which consisted of outtakes from the last two albums, and that was awesome as well. Like I said, they’ve never put out something I didn’t like.


3. Robert Plant, Carry Fire

At nearly 70 years old, Robert Plant can no longer reach the spine-tingling wail of his Led Zeppelin days.

But that’s fine, his voice may not have the range it once had (not going to at 70), but the man can still sing with plenty of raw emotion. And that’s what he does here on his latest solo offering.

Backed by his phenomenal band The Sensational Space Shifters, Plant delivers his best set of tunes in years and while it may not be as heavy or quite as eclectic as Zep, there’s a ton to love here.

Opener “The May Queen” gives a wink of “Stairway to Heaven” in its title, but the song itself has a more Indian feel to it, as Plant’s solo stuff often does.

The album is topical but not overtly political. The closest you get to a Plant political rant comes in the tune “Carving up the World Again … A Wall and not a Fence” which deals with Donald Trump’s controversial immigration policy. More than anything else, this album is a set of well-played, dazzingly sung songs by a true master. Two thumbs way up here.



2. Kendrick Lamar, DAMN

There aren’t many rappers (if any) today that marries wizardlike wordplay, topical relevance and musical innovation quite like Kendrick Lamar does.

His last album, To Pimp A Butterfly (one of the best rap albums ever in my opinion) was essentially a jazz-rap tour de force.

His latest effort is a bit more commercial sounding by comparison, but a whole hell of a lot better of most of the drivel you’ll find on the radio today.

Guests like Rihanna and U2 (yes that U2) drop by, but this is Kendrick’s show all the way. The single-word song titles mostly deal with man’s inner struggles and desires (“Pride”, “Lust,” “Love,” “Loyalty”) and closes with a plea to God (on the aptly titled “God”) before again turning inward on “Duckworth.”

Lamar dazzles with his flow but his ability to show compassion for the human condition while also delivering hypnotic storytelling makes him such an important voice in the music world.


1. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds,
Who Built the Moon?

The third solo effort from the former Oasis guitarist/songwriter takes a drastic left turn from his first two albums. Those albums, full of great songs, were a bit more basic rock albums, with plenty of acoustic strumming and straightforward arrangements.

On comes this dynamo, which layers trippy psychedelic sounds on beautiful tunes like “If Love is the Law” and “She Taught Me How to Fly.”

Noel is at his glam-rock best in lead single “Holy Mountain” and he turns things down a bit on the understated, bluesy “Be Careful What You Wish For.” The songs all have memorable melodies.

Really, if you took this album and much of Liam Gallagher’s As You Were’, you’d have the best Oasis album since What’s the Story (Morning Glory)? Instead, we’re left with a pair of excellent solo statements.

Rounding out the Top 20:

11. Queens of the Stone Age, Villains
12. Jay-Z, 4:44
13. The Killers, Wonderful, Wonderful
14. Dhani Harrison, In//Parallel
15. Incubus, 8
16. Greta Van Fleet, From the Fires
17. Linkin Park, One More Light
18. U2, Songs of Experience
19. Weezer, Pacific Daydream
20. Eminem, Revival




OK, so I’m a little late posting my best albums list this year. But, I think I’ve only done this once or twice before, so it’s not an annual thing by any means. I always go in with the best intentions to share my favorite albums every year, but I ultimately put it on the back-burner and it never gets done. But alas, I’m wide awake and figured I might as well do something somewhat productive. And away we go…..


  1. Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly
  2. Faith No More, Sol Invictus
  3. Clutch, Psychic Warfare
  4. Blur, The Magic Whip
  5. Iron Maiden, The Book of Souls
  6. Marilyn Manson, The Pale Emperor
  7. Tech N9ne, Special Effects
  8. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Chasing Yesterday
  9. Wilco, Star Wars
  10. Drake, If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late
  11. Baroness, Purple
  12. A$AP Rocky, At.Long.Last
  13. Alabama Shakes, Sound & Color
  14. Eagles of Death Metal, Zipper Down
  15. Highly Suspect, Mister Asylum
  16. Def Leppard, Def Leppard
  17. Dr. Dre, Compton
  18. Muse, Drones
  19. Scott Weiland and the Wildabouts, Blaster
  20. Cage the Elephant, Tell Me I’m Pretty
  21. The Dead Weather, Dodge and Burn
  22. Chris Cornell, Higher Truth
  23. Jeff Lynne’s ELO, Alone in the Universe
  24. The Darkness, Last of Our Kind
  25. Buckcherry, Rock N Roll

Let the flaming begin. I will try to post more on this blog, but hard to do with a demanding work schedule and a busy little 2-year-old to chase after. But stranger things have happened……





Over the last year and a half, Jimmy Page has been busy reissuing the Led Zeppelin catalogue with bonus material.

The reissue campaign recently completed with the band’s final three albums, Presence, In Through the Out Door and Coda. With a young child and limited funds, I was only able to purchase the Presence and Coda reissues. (Will pick up In Through the Out Door later, but that one was always my least favorite anyway).

I’ve always felt Presence was unfairly maligned. It sold the least out of any album in Zeppelin’s heyday (not counting Coda, which was basically an outtakes collection issued after John Bonham died to fulfill contract obligations).

Quite simply, Presence rocks and rocks hard. It’s Jimmy Page’s album in every way. There’s no ballads to be had. Think there may be piano on one track. It’s a guitar album, and a damn good one. The album was recorded with Robert Plant confined to a wheelchair after a car accident, so his vocals aren’t as powerful as normal. But Plant at 50 percent is still awesome.

The album kicks off with a classic epic, Achilles Last Stand. A drifting guitar passage begins and ends the 10-minute track, but in between is plenty of guitar fury by Page. The second track For Your Life sways with bravado, and was a nice surprise when Zeppelin dusted this one off for the first-ever performance live during the one-off reunion concert in 2007.

Royal Orleans closes the original album Side One, a bit of fun in an otherwise intense album.

The second side (yes I’m still referring to LP sides in 2015) opens with one of my favorite Zep tracks, Nobody’s Fault But Mine. Just an awesome track in every way. Candy Store Rock offers a little bit of revved up rockabilly to the proceedings, while Hots Off to Nowhere is probably the weakest track on the album, but it’s not bad at all. The album closes with Tea for One, which opens with one of the coolest Page riffs, but it lasts for about 25 seconds before descending into a deep blues where Plant laments being away from his wife and family. More great guitar work from Page on this one.

The bonus disc on the reissue offers a few nice surprises, particularly the never-before-released instrumental with the odd title 10 Ribs and All/Carrot Pod (Pod) or something like that. I can see why it was left off the album, as it’s totally different from anything on it. A laid-pack piano jam led by John Paul Jones, it just wouldn’t have fit on this guitar-heavy album. But still interesting. The other cool bonus track is a rough mix of Royal Orleans where Plant sings in a deep gruff voice, almost like Dr. John. Pretty wacky stuff.


Coda was always an odds and sods collection, but I quite enjoyed the original incarnation of it, particularly the In Through the Out Door outtakes Ozone Baby and Wearing and Tearing. Those two rockers alone would have made that album much better, as that one had too much synthesizer and not enough Page guitar. Also included is the kick-ass rocker Walter’s Walk, an outtake from the Houses of the Holy sessions.

There are two bonus discs with the remastered and reissued Coda, and there are some great finds here. The early outtake Sugar Mama really rocks, while St. Tristan’s Sword is a cool little instrumental from the Led Zeppelin III sessions. The bonus discs also include great already released but harder to find tracks like Baby Come On Home, Travelling Riverside Blues and Hey Hey What Can I Do. My one complaint about these reissues is the inclusion of two many instrumentals of tracks we already have. I really don’t need to see Led Zeppelin tracks without Plant, unless they are never before released instrumentals like St. Tristan’s Sword. Also didn’t like the inclusion of outtakes that are barely different from the released counterpart. Would have rather they included live tracks. And one of the most well-known Zeppelin outtakes, the beautiful instrumental Swan Song, was nowhere to be found in this reissue campaign. Small criticisms, as even without any outtakes, this would have been a worthwhile venture, simply for the better sound quality. The remasters really make the music pop, and that is a great development for Zep fanatics. They just don’t make them like Zep anymore.


If I was to build a Mount Rushmore of rock and roll, my Washington and Lincoln selections would be easy: The Beatles on one hand and Led Zeppelin on the other. The other two slots probably would change by my mood (Stones, the Who, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Guns N Roses, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Metallica, Oasis, Red Hot Chili Peppers and countless others would joggle for position). But always the Beatles, followed by the mighty Zep at the top.

As you can imagine, when Jimmy Page announced he was reissuing the entire canon last year with pristine upgraded sound for the digital age, I was thrilled. And as the campaign is now just past the midway point, I can tell you these reissues are well worth the investment.

Even if there wasn’t a bonus companion disc tacked to each issue (we’ll discuss the merits of those in a bit), the supreme upgrade in sound makes the reissues a must-buy for the devoted Zeppelin fan.

I didn’t really have a huge problem with the way they sounded before (Page had previously remastered the albums back in the 90s) but simply put, this classic music has never sounded better. And it’s not even close.

It feels like the band is right in the room with you, and you can hear nuances not detectable before. Masterful work by Page, as the project came to fruition when he listened to the catalogue on MP3 and decided his 90s remasters weren’t holding up to modern technology. He seemed to feel it made a juggernaut sound sterile, maybe even lifeless. No such problem now (and again, I never really had a problem with the old remasters, but can now say the new remasters blow them out of the water).

Which brings me to Physical Graffiti, re-released this week to coincide with the album’s 40th anniversary, almost to the date. Physical Graffiti has always been my favorite Zep album, much like The Beatles’ White Album tops my Fab Four list and Exile On Main Street is near the top of my Stones list. Double albums of your favorite artists? What’s not to love?

When the band recorded the album, they had eight blazing new tracks ready to go. Only problem was, the running time was a bit longer than an LP called for. So, instead of cutting a song or editing songs to make them fit, Page and company scoured their previous three records for quality outtakes. In other words, stuff left off the earlier releases. Among the leftovers were tracks like the pretty “Down by the Seaside,” recorded during the sessions for IV, but not really fitting with any of the tracks that went on that album. Another ‘oldie’ was the fun romp “Boogie with Stu,” a piano-driven boogie with Rolling Stones session man extraordinaire Ian Stewart. Another outtake which mysteriously didn’t make the cut of a previous record was the classic “Houses of the Holy.” I mean, this band was on such a hot streak, it didn’t have room for the title song of the previous record (1973’s Houses of the Holy).

You might think the combination of older and newer sessions might make for a jarring listen, yet the album flows wonderfully. The first disc shows the band at the peak of its hard rock powers. Kicking off with the killer “Custard Pie”, the album is off to a rip-roaring start. “The Rover” was another Houses of the Holy outtake, featuring an underrated riff, strong vocals and the always kick-ass drumming of the late, great John Bonham.

Speaking of Bonzo, he really brought the thunder on the next track “In My Time of Dying,” an 11-minute slow-burning, then suddenly fiery death blues, where a pleading Robert Plant begs Jesus for entrance into heaven. This one sends chills down the spine, from Plant’s wails, Bonham’s powerful fills and Page’s caterwauling guitar assault, it’s one of my favorite Zep tracks, and that’s saying something.

Side Two (of the original LP for all you kiddies out there) continues the assault, although “Houses of the Holy” is a much more upbeat number than Dying was. How this was left off the previous album, I’ll never know, but that album’s loss is Physical Graffiti’s gain. Up next is “Trampled Under Foot,” chosen as the single off the album in the U.S. You can see why. With bassist/multi-instrumentalist John Paul Jones absolutely killing it on clavinet, this sounds like classic Stevie Wonder, but on a heavy dose of steroids. Raunchy Plant lyrics and vocals add to the procedings, which lead into Disc 1’s epic closer, “Kashmir.” One of the band’s signature songs, the mid-eastern flavor and instantly recognizable Page riff make this one a standard of classic rock radio.

Disc Two is less rocking, more introspective and experimental at times, but still outstanding.

Jone’s synthesizer provides the drone intro to “In the Light,” a multi-faceted composition with several key changes and tempo changes, yet always coherent. The instrumental “Bron-Yr-Aur” was a leftover from the 1970 sessions for Led Zeppelin III, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. Fits better here than it would have on that album, which was loaded with acoustic pieces on Side 2. That leads us into the aforementioned “Down by the Seaside” which is about as pretty a ditty the band ever constructed. Almost sounds like a different band entirely, but the next track completely blows that one away. “Ten Years Gone” is a sorrowful tale of loss with heartfelt Plant vocals and the always amazing guitar work of Page making this perhaps my favorite Zep ballad.

The remainder of the album finds the band having a bit more fun, from the cheerful “Night Flight” to “Boogie With Stu” serving notice. There are also a few more riff-based rock powerhouses in “The Wanton Song” and “Sick Again” and the acoustic tongue-in-cheek blues of “Black Country Woman.” Not a bad song in the bunch and several stone-cold classics. One of my all-time favorite albums.

As for the bonus material, it’s kind of been hit or miss with these Zep reissues. I honestly think Page is saving the true gems for the reissue of 1982’s Coda, which was an odds and sods compilation to begin with (released two years after Bonham’s death). I mean, not too many people will be clamoring for a reissue of that one, so I’m betting he’s holding off some interesting material for the companion disk on that one. The bonus material for these classic albums hasn’t been bad, it just hasn’t been all that interesting either. What you often get are alternate mixes, with barely noticeable differences. One exception is “Everybody Makes it Through,” an early version of “In the Light” which has different lyrics and a completely different structure, while still boasting elements of what went on the official release. I actually prefer this version because it’s a bit more powerful (and also because “In the Light” wasn’t my favorite Zep tune to begin with, although still good of course). The alternate early version of “Sick Again” kicks ass, as in this early instrumental form, you really hear the major riffage going on. Overall, I’ve liked this companion disc more than the other albums (although the ones for II and III were pretty good, too), and I’m hoping for better outtakes to come in the final three releases (Presence, In Through the Out Door and Coda). Overall, this is a must have for any Zep fan or hard rock enthusiast.

Making a concerted effort to get my blog back up and running on a more consistent basis (I had gone a full year between posts before last night’s Mets post). I’ll try to play catch-up with some of the recent albums I’ve purchased. So instead of more in-depth single reviews, I’ll try to sum them up in capsule format.

Marilyn Manson: The Pale Emperor

I kind of lost interest in the shock rocker’s career about a decade or so ago. Think the last album I owned by him was 2007’s Eat Me, Drink Me, and I wasn’t too impressed. The last album I really enjoyed from him was 2000’s Holy Wood (In the Valley of the Shadow of Death). But I read some positive advance reviews and sampled a couple tracks, deciding to give it a whirl. I’m glad I did. It’s a concise 10-song effort. Extremely raw (some of the vocal tracks were done in one take, giving the album a live feel at times). Not a bad track here and some great ones (Deep Six, The Mephistopheles of Los Angeles, Worship My Wreck, Cupid Carries a Gun). A welcome return to form. Sod rating: ****

Pink Floyd: The Endless River

Billed as the final album of the mighty Floyd, the album’s genesis came from the sessions of the band’s previous effort, 1994’s The Division Bell. While working on that one, the band recorded hours of unreleased ambient instrumental tracks. At one point, they considered releasing some of that material as The Big Spliff, a kind of companion piece to The Division Bell. That idea was ultimately rejected, and the music sat on the shelf for years. Following the death of keyboard player Richard Wright, remaining band members David Gilmour and Nick Mason revisited the material, hoping to use some of it for a final album, a kind of tribute to Wright. They also recorded some new music for the project, and a new Pink Floyd album was born. The album is mostly instrumental (as The Big Spliff was intended to be) with several keyboard pieces where Wright is showcased. There are spots where the majesty and excitement of the old Floyd shine through (the bouncy Allons-y reminds me of Run Like Hell from The Wall). Gilmour always shines on guitar, and the album has a pleasant flow. Definitely not one for the download generation, it needs to be listened to start to finish. Still, I felt it would have benefitted from a few more fully fleshed-out songs (the album closer Louder than Words is the only song with a lead vocal from Gilmour, only a few of the tracks have any vocals at all). Even 3-4 vocal tracks would have been nice and made it feel more like a Floyd album than a movie soundtrack of some kind. It’s not their best work, but it’s a pleasant listen and a fond farewell. Sod rating: *** 1/2

Fall Out Boy: American Beauty, American Pyscho

Fall Out Boy has always been a guilty pleasure of mine, at least until recently. They never rocked all that hard, and were too poppy to really be considered punk (they made Green Day look like Sex Pistols), but they always had an ear for pop songcraft and created some memorable tunes (and song titles, who else could write a hit song called This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race?). After 2008’s Folie a Deux flopped in comparison to some of their earlier albums (I thought it was a fine effort), they took a five-year hiatus. They returned with 2013’s Save Rock and Roll, which spawned the comeback single My Songs (Know What You Did in the Dark). That was an ok effort, liked the single and a couple other songs, but not much stuck. The new album keeps swinging them into a contemporary pop direction (guess that may be the only way rock bands can be played on the radio these days). And while there are a few catchy tunes (the lead single Centuries and it’s sampling of Suzanne Vega’s Tom’s Diner gets stuck in your head), there’s not a ton of originality here. The song Uma Thurman is built off the riff from the Munsters theme song. The title track samples Motley Crue’s Too Fast for Love. I’ve listened to the album four times, and I’m just not all that fond of it. Not bad, but not memorable. Sod rating: ** 1/2

Spring training is upon us.mets

It’s been seven long years (six seasons to be exact) since the Mets last posted a winning record or flirted with the playoffs.

During that time, the Madoff scandal happened, reducing the Mets crooked owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon into penny-pinching Moneyball enthusiasts.

The organization has embraced a slow (and I do mean slothlike) rebuilding process under general manager Sandy Alderson, which has produced the best Mets farm system I can remember in quite some time. There is pitching depth galore, and because of that, the Mets made just two pitching-related moves outside the organization this offseason, both minor ones – adding Sean Gilmartin in the Rule 5 draft and Duane Below on a minor-league deal to shore up the left-handed relief corps.

The position prospects are coming along as well, but what about the big-league team? Is this the year they finally inch past .500 and contend for a playoff spot?

I believe so on the first count (improving three wins from last year’s 79-83 record would get them past .500), but not so sure on the second count.

By my estimation, 85 wins gets you at least on the periphery of that second wild card spot. But did the Mets do enough this offseason to jump by at least six wins (and they’d probably need more than that to actually make the playoffs)?

I don’t think so, and that’s frustrating. This offseason has been one of severe inactivity, a calling card of the Alderson regime. While I love what he and his three assistant GMs have done with the minor leagues, they seem to take an overcautious approach with the big club, always feigning interest but never jumping into the fray.

What’s strange about the approach this offseason is they jumped right in, signing Michael Cuddyer the first day of free agency. Was this a good move? Only if the guy stays healthy, which at age 36, is a big if.

He’s a quality big-league hitter, but to acquire him through free agency, the Mets forfeited a first-round pick in next year’s draft. I’m not a miser with the draft picks. I think you can forfeit a first-rounder from time to time for the right guy. But an aging slugger with poor defensive skills, buoyed the last few years by Coors Field, just doesn’t seem to be that guy.

I’ll eat my words if he hits .330 and knocks in 90 runs, but this move seems risky to me.

Secondly, the Mets kept talking all offseason about wanted to add a shortstop. They failed in that regard miserably, but this might not be a bad thing if Wilmer Flores runs with the job. I believe in him as an offensive player. The defense is a big question mark.

They also wanted to upgrade the lefty relief corps. Bringing in Gilmartin and Below (along with Scott Rice and youngsters Jack Leathersich and Dario Alvarez) gives you a bunch of options, none of them very proven. And if Josh Edgin regresses, you may not have a reliable lefty in the pen. I would have brought in a quality veteran to battle for one of those spots.

They also targeted a lefty-mashing RH bat for the bench, and they did so theoretically with John Mayberry Jr. Never been a Mayberry fan, although he has hit lefties well over the course of his career. Had they waited, a guy like Dayan Viciedo would have been a nice choice (as he is now a free agent after being cut by the White Sox). Younger and big-time power.

The Mets have a glut of starting pitchers. With the return of ace Matt Harvey, they essentially have six men for five spots (even more when you count prospects Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Rafael Montero, who are all knocking on the door). They’ve been pursuing trades for Dillon Gee, but really should have had Gee, Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon on the market and seen if they could have gotten anything useful. Even Montero. Just don’t think Gee was going to fetch them much, and it seems like Sandy wanted too much for him. He’s a nice back-end starter, and an affordable one, but he’s probably not going to get you an impact big-league piece or even a high-end prospect in return. Probably a midrange prospect is all you’ll get. Now the Mets go into spring with Gee on the outside looking in. Just think with the depth the Mets have on the mound, he (or Niese or Colon) could have and should have been moved.

To compound matters, the Nationals (who made the Mets their bitch last year) continue to get better, as did the Marlins. With the Braves and Phillies in rebuild mode, the Mets missed a golden opportunity to make a bold statement.

Does the team have the talent to make the playoffs? Yes, especially if Harvey comes back to be the ace we know he can be. Teaming up with Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom and fellow young gun Zach Wheeler and if guys like Syndergaard and Matz pan out, the Mets could have a dominant rotation for years to come.

But this year, you’re banking on a bounce-back year from the declining David Wright. Same goes for Curtis Granderson. You need Cuddyer to stay healthy and come close to replicating his Rockies numbers. You need another 30-homer season from Lucas Duda. Youngsters like Flores, Juan Lagares and Travis d’Arnaud need to take steps forward. Just a lot of question marks offensively. And when you factor in the idiotic managing of Terry Collins, I see the team falling short. 83-79 finish is my prediction and a battle with the Marlins for second in the division.

Meet the Beatles (again!)

Posted: February 7, 2014 in Album Reviews, Beatles


Anyone who has spent a great deal of time with me knows I’m obsessed with the Beatles. Although I love a wide variety of music, there will never be another Beatles in my mind. My dad has always been a huge Beatles fan. He remembers vividly watching their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 and he was instantly hooked. He passed that love for all things Beatle to me basically from birth. He played Beatles records and 8-tracks (kids, you’ll have to google those terms!) all the time, and sang Beatles/Paul McCartney tunes whenever it was naptime. My dad would buy blank 8-tracks to make mix tapes from his records. I was 3 or 4 and I always wanted him to make me a mix tape, too. Half of mine would contain various kids songs (probably at the behest of my mom) and the other half would be Beatles tunes. I always liked the Beatles songs better (sorry, mom!). As years went by, the obsession just grew. Even though my dad had all the records, I wanted my own copies and by the time I was 10, I pretty much did (although I had now graduated to cassettes and CDs). I have bought their catalogue a few times over, buying everything again when they remastered it in 2009 in both the stereo and mono box sets. I’ve even got most of the American albums on CD (through the first half of their career, Capitol Records issued different albums in the United States than in Britain, including non-album singles and mixing and matching tracks from the original albums  to the disgust of the band). So as we celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the Beatles landing on our shores, I’d like to rank their 13 albums. Please note that all 13 albums are recommended. Give me the Beatles talking in the studio over anything released by Justin Bieber, Katy Perry and the endless cesspool of ineptitude that passes for popular music these days. Here’s to the days when bands actually played instruments and wrote timeless songs. And now, the album rankings:


1. The Beatles (White Album, 1968)
A bit of a controversial choice here, since these sessions are referenced as the beginning of the end for the band. In early 1968, the group convened in India to study transcendental meditation under the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. While in India, the band wrote a wealth of material for their next album. By the time they got back to England, they had more than 30 songs ready to record. When they got to the studio, tensions began to mount. John Lennon had just left his wife for the conceptual artist Yoko Ono, and the pair were inseparable. Yoko’s presence in the studio didn’t sit well with the others, since nobody’s wife or girlfriend had ever spent an extended period of time in the studio while the group was recording. The fact she would make suggestions made things worse. But to blame the band’s breakup on Yoko is extremely short-sighted. There were other problems. George Harrison, who had played second fiddle to the dynamic Lennon-McCartney songwriting team, was becoming a prolific songwriter in his own right. Since he was usually allotted two songs per album (three on Revolver, four on the White Album), he began to feel creatively stifled, a situation which would lead to his temporary leaving of the band in early 1969 during the contentious Let It Be sessions. During the White Album sessions, the Beatles seemed more a group of four individuals at times than a band, and that’s because they often recorded tracks individually due to the sheer wealth of material and the deadline to produce the album. But I’ve always loved the White Album. Through the course of two discs, the Beatles tackle just about every style of music and do it well. You’ve got beautiful acoustic ditties like Mother Nature’s Son and Julia on one hand to the heavy-metal menace of Helter Skelter on the other. There’s a country tune penned by Ringo (his first-ever songwriting credit) in Don’t Pass Me By. The old-western, sitting in a saloon feel of Rocky Raccoon shares album space with the caterwauling Yer Blues. A doo-wop, slowed down version of Revolution (titled Revolution 1, since it was the take Lennon wanted to put out as a single before the others vetoed it, saying it was too slow, which led to the faster, classic heavy version issued as Hey Jude’s B-side) segues into the vaudeville/music hall leanings of Honey Pie. And there’s the controversial avant-garde sound collage Revolution 9, which some people hate, but I love (even though it scared the living hell out of me when I was a child) just because the band was pushing the boundaries of pop music as always. And I haven’t even mentioned one of my favorite tunes Dear Prudence yet. Over the years, some critics have opined the band should have made this a single disc, ripping it for it’s sprawl. But I tend to side with Paul McCartney who said during the Anthology series in the 90s ‘It sold, it’s the Beatles bloody White Album, shut up!’ Couldn’t have said it better myself.

2. Revolver (1966)

The album where the Beatles shed the lovable moptop image for good. Their most concise effort, and again, an eclectic one. The band was growing tired of touring (they’d stop for good in August 1966), partly because no one could hear them play and also because they were beginning to really stretch out in the studio. No touring would allow them to devote more time to experiment, and even though they hadn’t yet quit the road, Revolver is where you can really see them branching out. Harrison was now fully devoted to Indian music, taking lessons with sitar master Ravi Shankar. Harrison had introduced the sitar in Norwegian Wood the year before, but he brings a full-on Indian tune here in Love You To, one of three Harrison songs included (the biting commentary Taxman and the excellent I Want to Tell You are the others). McCartney had incorporated a string quartet for Yesterday in 1965, so he brought in a full-orchestra treatment for his classic Eleanor Rigby, one of the greatest tunes about loneliness ever written. Lennon was now into his LSD period, delivering mind-bending tunes like She Said, She Said and the trippy Tomorrow Never Knows, full with tape-loop effects and backwards guitar. The band completely on the top of their game here.


3. Rubber Soul (1965)

One of the most remarkable aspects of the Beatles’ career is how far they came during a short period of time. Their early singles (She Loves You, Please Please Me, I Want to Hold Your Hand, etc.) exuded an effervescent charm and real knack for hooks, but they were love songs lyrically, mainly dealing with boy-girl relationships. In late 1964, that began to change with songs like No Reply and I’m a Loser off Beatles for Sale, as the band delved into more mature subject matter. That’s completely evident on Rubber Soul, or what many refer to as the Beatles’ folk album (although that’s stating it way too simply). Here, Lennon churns out the standard ‘In My Life,’ reminiscing about the people and places that were important to him. McCartney’s love songs now had a bit of bite to them, as ‘You Won’t See Me’ and ‘I’m Looking Through You’ chronicle the problems he was having with girlfriend Jame Asher. The previously mentioned ‘Norwegian Wood (This Bird has Flown)’ not only introduced the sitar to rock music, but told a story about an affair Lennon was having at the time, except in this tale, he burns the woman’s house down at the end of it. Even deep album cuts like ‘Run for Your Life’ and the Ringo-led ‘What Goes On’ are executed with aplomb. 


4. Abbey Road (1969)

Oh, what a sendoff! The Beatles were falling apart at the seams in 1969, plagued by money issues caused by their ill-advised company, Apple, and personality issues. Their previous attempts at recording an album that year sat on the shelf because nobody wanted to deal with the endless reels of tape and what they viewed as uninspired performances (those sessions would later come out as Let It Be in 1970, the last album the band released but not the last one it recorded). Somehow, maybe because they didn’t want to go out on such a whimper, the Beatles put aside their differences enough to come up with a grand closing statement. Abbey Road qualifies as perhaps their most polished effort. The vocals are immaculate (especially on breathtaking tracks like ‘Because’ and ‘Sun King’), showing the three-part harmony of Lennon, McCartney and Harrison at the absolute peak of its powers. Harrison again showed he was being under-utilized by delivering the classics ‘Something’ and ‘Here Comes the Sun.’ Ringo contributed his second Beatles track, ‘Octopus’ Garden’ and McCartney showed his pop craftsmanship by putting together the brilliant closing medley on Side Two from fragments of songs the band had lying around the last two years. Lennon gave the album a proper kick-off with the swampy blues of ‘Come Together.’ He also contributed the pleading ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy), a song with simplistic lyrics but gut-wrenching vocals, and an almost apocalyptic guitar/synthesizer workout at the end. McCartney deals with some of the money problems the band was having at the time with ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’ and also brings to mind old 50s rock with ‘Oh Darling.’ And the ending statement “And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make’ is such an awesome line and should have been the final words the band sang. Instead, that came in the form of ‘Her Majesty’, a 23-second snippet taken out of the Side 2 medley but accidentally spliced at the end of the tape. When the band heard it, they decided to leave it because it sounded cool. Oh, those Beatles.


5. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

For many, this is the crown jewel in the Beatles’ catalogue. Now free from the rigors of touring, the Beatles had ample studio time and they used it wisely here, crafting a psychedelic pop masterpiece and the soundtrack for the Summer of Love. It’s often called rock’s first concept album, although as Lennon would later admit, the concept doesn’t really go anywhere beyond the first two songs and a reprise of the title track later. Nevertheless, it feels like a grand statement or thematic concept, as the songs blended seamlessly and the entire work seems connected somehow, even if it’s not lyrically. Lennon was in a bit of a songwriting slump volume-wise, but oh did he make up for it in quality. The psychedelic trip ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ contained some of his most far-out and vivid imagery, while the album closer ‘A Day in the Life’ is quite simply one of the greatest pop achievements of all time. McCartney came up with the ‘Sgt. Pepper’ theme and song as an idea to dress the band up as a different group (hence the colorful band outfits and the mustaches they had grown during the time), and the elaborate artwork featuring many of the band’s heroes was ahead of its time. 


OK, I’ve been at this an hour and a half. My wife is getting antsy so I’m going to do the rest of the albums in a rapid-fire capsule form:

6. A Hard Day’s Night (1964): The first Beatles album to contain no cover songs, and it’s brilliant. Many songs featured on the band’s first film (of the same name), including the title track and ‘Can’t Buy Me Love. Other key tracks: If I Fell, And I Love Her, I’ll Be Back (ah the whole damn thing).

7. Magical Mystery Tour (1967): Title of band’s ill-fated U.K. TV special and the first critical backlash they ever received (for the show, not the album). The music here is phenomenal, although it’s a hodgepodge effort. The first side featured songs from the film, and the second side rounded up their non-Pepper singles of 1967. But my oh my were those singles awesome. Key tracks: Strawberry Fields Forever, Penny Lane, The Fool On the Hill, I Am the Walrus

8. Help! (1965): A transitional album and also the last one to feature cover songs. Still, the songs from the Beatles’ second film are awesome, especially the title track and Ticket To Ride. The non-soundtrack side is also great, featuring Yesterday. Other key tracks: You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away, The Night Before, It’s Only Love

9. With the Beatles (1963): The album Meet the Beatles, Capitol’s first U.S. release, was based on. Only thing is, Meet the Beatles was superior (only time this really happened) due to the inclusion of the classic single I Want to Hold Your Hand/This Boy and I Saw Her Standing There. Still, With the Beatles contains an outstanding collection of cover songs and originals. Key tracks: It Won’t Be Long, All My Loving, Money (That’s What I Want), You Really Gotta Hold on Me

10. Please Please Me (1963): The Beatles’ opening salvo. The product of a monumental 12-hour recording session, in which the band replicated their club set under the helpful guidance of producer George Martin (can’t believe I haven’t mentioned his genius yet). Key tracks: Please Please Me, Twist and Shout, I Saw Her Standing There

11. Let it Be (1970): Lennon and Harrison brought uber-producer Phil Spector in to clean up the early 1969 tracks, sessions which were being filmed in the hopes of showing the Beatles getting their act together to produce a live show. The live show’s location couldn’t be agreed upon, and with tensions coming to a boil (Harrison left the band temporarily), they decided to film a short show on the Apple Records rooftop, their final live performance. During those sessions, the Beatles wanted to ‘get back’ to their roots, meaning no overdubs and takes recorded live. By bringing in Spector, who put orchestral and choral flourishes to tracks like ‘The Long and Winding Road’ and ‘Across the Universe’, this didn’t happen. And McCartney was pissed. He announced his departure from the band a month before this was released. Key tracks: Two of Us, Dig a Pony, I’ve Got a Feeling, Let it Be, Across the Universe

12. Beatles for Sale (1964): The originals here are first-rate early Beatles, with Lennon especially showing songwriting growth in tunes like No Reply, I’m a Loser and Baby’s in Black. Just gets a bit bogged down with covers, as the band’s relentless touring and promotional schedule that year caused a dip in songwriting productivity. Other key tracks: Every Little Thing, What You’re Doing, I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party, Eight Days a Week

13. Yellow Submarine (1969): Album really should be credited to Beatles and George Martin, as the first side collects songs from the band’s animated film and the second side featured soundtrack offerings orchestrated by Martin. Of the six band songs, only four were new (Yellow Submarine and All You Need is Love were previously released). These tracks were basically holdovers from previous sessions, but the Beatles’ scraps were still more interesting than others’ best efforts. Harrison’s psychedelic showcase ‘It’s All Too Much’ is the best of that group. Other key tracks: Hey Bulldog, All Together Now


And here’s a few others to check out:

Anthology 1, Anthology 2, Anthology 3 (1995-96): The three double-disc volumes of Beatles outtakes released in conjunction with the documentary of the same name. Anthology 1 and Anthology 2 contained the ‘reunion’ tracks Free As a Bird and Real Love, as the three surviving Beatles cleaned up old Lennon demos provided by Yoko and released them as singles to promote the project. They’re actually quite good and would be even better today, as technology has advanced where Lennon’s vocals could be further cleaned up. But the outtakes throughout this collection are fascinating, showing the Beatles tinkered with songs’ arrangements constantly. And while they always picked the best one, early versions are pretty damn entertaining.

Live at the BBC, Volumes 1 and 2 (1994, 2013): Since there are no live Beatles albums in print (1977’s Live at the Hollywood Bowl was never put out on CD), this is about the close we can get to hearing the band recorded live. From 1962 to 1965, the Beatles recorded a series of shows for British Broadcasting, taping many songs they never put down in the studio, including oodles of rock covers from the 50s.

Meet the Beatles! (1964): The album that started it all for the Beatles in America. A bastardized version of their November 1963 release With the Beatles, this was one case where the American version was better. Only one cover here, and the inclusion of the I Want to Hold Your Hand single makes this one essential listening (as all Beatle recordings are).
Past Masters Volumes 1 and 2 (1988): A collection of all the tracks released during the band’s career but not included on the official British albums, i.e. singles and B-sides. If you included this in the album rankings, it would place in the top five easily with presence of great singles like Day Tripper, Hey Jude, Paperback Writer, Lady Madonna, etc.