Tag Archives: steve earle

“Only the beginning. Only just a start.” – Chicago


Well, that’s it! It’s over! I’m finally finished! All set!

I finished listening to all of my CDs recently, and it is a relief to be done. The final total was 344 CDs. I listened nearly every (work) day, commuting in my car. It took me the better part of 15 months to finish. And now it is over.

At least it feels like it should be over. I mean, 15 fucking months is a long time to spend on one project, especially one that doesn’t pay money. (Or get you laid). And writing a blog every 4 weeks about records you like, and what a dork you were/are, will most certainly get you neither … Unless I’m missing something …
nerd jock

Anyway, although it feels like the project is complete, it would be folly to pronounce it so, as there is much, much work to do. If I were to say I’m finished now, well, both my readers would think me a laughingstock!

bush accomplished

So … Now the hard part starts. I have to decide which of the 344 discs make up my top 100.

This is going to be harder than I originally thought. I figured listening to all my CDs would help me better place them in a list. However, what really happened is that it muddied the waters. There are many CDs that I had barely ever listened to that, upon listening closely in my car, I realized I really liked! And – conversely – there were several that I had always thought were awesome that, upon listening closely in my car, I realized were … eh.

That seems like a simple problem – the ones that aren’t good drop down on the list, and the ones that are good move up on the list, right??

wile e 1

But the name of this site is “100 FAVE albums,” not “100 BEST albums.” This difference may seem to be just semantics, but what if – after objective listening – you realize that some of your favorite albums aren’t necessarily some of the best? What if you realize that an album you always liked a lot, like, say, just for example, INXS’s The Swing,
the swing

upon listening, sounds a little thin, and the keyboards a bit overdone, and the weak songs weaker than you remember, and the good songs not as good as you remember, and that as you listen to, say, for example, 343 other CDs, you realize that if you were to sort your records from BEST to WORST, probably this record would be solidly in the middle, placing it somewhere in the 130 to 180 range – certainly not a horrible rank, but definitely not as high as, say, again, for example, Steve Earle’s Jerusalem,


a CD that you bought when it came out, in 2002, because you heard it was great, but then never really got around to listening to much at all, until you decided to listen to all your CDs to rank them, at which point you realized, “Holy Shit! This is an awesome record! Why didn’t I listen to this before!?!?” and so – in that mythical array of BEST-TO-WORST albums – it gets placed near the top, around 50 – BUT then … when you decide to think about FAVORITE albums, albums that come to mind when thinking about your life and the music you’ve listened to, and the good feelings the music arouses, and you think about The Swing in that context,

you start to associate some fun, exciting times, some great experiences while, perhaps, drunk (not drunk, teeny-boppers!) at college, with fun friends – but try as you might, the only experience you associate with Jerusalem is driving to and from work,

which isn’t fun and isn’t exciting, and during which time you are rarely drunk, and plus you still haven’t had time to build up some interest in it by listening to it a bunch more times yet because you’ve been spending the last 15 friggin months listening to EVERY OTHER CD you own, so it’s hard for it to really become a favorite, and so on the FAVORITEST-to-LEAST-FAVORITEST array, The Swing lands at, say, 90 to 100, while Jerusalem is … well, better than Blood on the Tracks, anyway …

What then??
wile e 2

I’ll bet you never looked at it that way, did you?

stop dude

Well, I am looking at it that way, and I’ll continue looking at it that way, until my list is put together.

In the new year I will return with more regular updates, and a countdown from CDs 100 to 1, plus a look at some records that didn’t make the list, and some more stories of events in my life that I ridiculously associate with music I’ve heard. Unless the process of making a list drives me crazy …

insane daffy


“How Long Has This Been Going On?” – Ace


How Long Has This Been Going On?


That’s the musical question posed by one-hit-wonder band “Ace,” which featured serial band-jumper (Roxy Music, Squeeze, Mike + The Mechanics) Paul Carrack. For me, the musical answer would come from The Beatles … “It’s been a long time …” Or Boston might have an even better answer … “It’s been such a long time …

The non musical answer is About a Year. That’s how long I’ve been driving around listening to CDs, taking notes, comparing contrasting, thinking. The NHTSA thinks I should be paying better attention to the road. Maybe so. Here’s a picture a friend took of the result of me not paying attention to the car in front of me:

driving distracted

Several months ago I reached a point at which I was no longer sure which CDs I’d listened to, and which were still waiting. Sure, I keep a list, so I could double-check which ones were on it, but I did find myself getting a little overwhelmed.

Plus, it’s getting a little BORING. I love listening to the music, but the whole point of this project has been to make a list, and now it’s been a friggin year, AND I STILL HAVEN’T STARTED MY LIST!!!!! Maybe boredom isn’t the word I’m looking for. Perhaps I meant Frustration!


Maybe the best musical answer to the musical question “How Long Has This Been Going On?” might come from Gnarls Barkley: “I can die when I’m done … Maybe I’m crazy…

But despite my frustration, to paraphrase The Stone Roses, “I’ll carry on through it all/I’m a waterfall.” And really, I am enjoying it, and I am having some musical revelations, of sorts. Here are some things I have learned:

brain music

1) It is really difficult to judge “Rock Opera” type records, like Tommy, Quadrophenia and The Wall. These albums are impressive in their scope and story-telling. As works of art they are undeniably profound. I find myself listening to them and thinking, “Holy shit. These guys are working at such a different level than all the other pop and rock acts I’m listening to!”

rock opera

But then I hear a song like “Fiddle About,” or “Tommy’s Holiday Camp,” (on Tommy) or “Vera,” or “Bring the Boys Back Home” (on The Wall) and I find myself thinking, “Man, this song helps me understand the story, but it SUCKS!!!” So, do I judge the albums as contained works of art and gloss over the fact that there are a few songs that I dislike, since they help accomplish what the writer meant to accomplish? Or do I state – as with other CDs – this album has two, three, whatever, songs that I DISLIKE and adjust my rating accordingly? I’m 319 CDs into my efforts, and I still don’t know how this will shake out …

2) I don’t like records in which all the songs sound very similar.

many notes

I like diversity, different styles, bands trying to do something a little outside their comfort zone. (But just a little …) This is probably why London Calling is destined to sit pretty high on the list. And, going back to Insight #1, it’s generally speaking a positive aspect of the Rock Opera. However, there are some bands/CDs for which I’ve broken this rule. The Stone Roses is an album that many of my friends have complained about, stating all the songs sound alike. This is utter donkey dung, and there is no semblance of truth to the statement … however, if it were true, too fucking bad. That CD is awesome. My distaste for similar sounds in an entire CD is probably why hip-hop isn’t prominently featured. As I wrote several months ago, to my ears a lot of it sounds the same.

3) I need some pep. When too many songs are too slow and/or too soft, it starts to sound like this to me:

I don’t mind a slow, soft song here and there, particularly if it’s got great lyrical content. And such songs help to minimize the “all the songs sound alike” bug from Insight #2. But CDs that are mostly slow songs – whether folky or rock ballads or lowdown blues or love songs or break-up songs – these are CDs I won’t listen to very much. They’ll sink down on the list.

4) I have lots of CDs that I haven’t listened to in a while that I had completely forgotten I really like! Back in SF I had an acquaintance who worked in a record store (note to readers born after 1975: “record stores” were buildings with lights and a cash register and posters on the walls (like this)

record store

where actual physical, (non-virtual) compilations of songs called “records” were sold; the records came in a variety of formats: vinyl (little and big (and before my time, medium);

vinyl records

8-track tape;


cassette tape;


compact disc)

compact disc

anyway, this guy said that having any more than 100 records was a waste because there’s no way you could listen to more than that over a given span of time and fully appreciate the content of each. So this guy would cap his collection at 100, and anytime he wanted a new one, he’d get rid of one of the existing 100 – sort of like Relegation Rules in the English Premier League. I think he and I have a different understanding of what it means to appreciate music, but it is true that many of the CDs I’ve bought over the years have remained un-listened-to for years at a time. Some disks that I listened to over the past year that I had forgotten were so good include:

Steve Earle – Jerusalem
Thin Lizzy – Jailbreak
Green Day – Warning
Pearl Jam – Backspacer
Foo Fighters and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – just generally better than I recall.

There were also a couple CDs that weren’t as great as I recall, including Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, by Pavement; Wish You Were Here, by Pink Floyd; and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s eponymous record.

5) The biggest thing I learned is this: I WANT TO START COMPILING THE LIST!!! But I need to be thorough, or I’ll feel like the whole thing was a waste of time. (Which is not to say that an argument for that point couldn’t be mounted right now …) I think I have about 2 months left before I can start. As Tom Petty sang, “The waiting/is the hardest part/every day you see one more card.”

Or in my case, I hear one more CD.