Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The 7th Annual Reynolds Top 20 List (1996)

So welcome to the expanded edition of The Reynolds Top 20 List. Yes my friends, we’ve stepped up to the big time, a sort of fanzine. Last year’s edition was the first with the use of a powerful computer. This year that oh-so powerful computer belongs to me. You’ll notice some new things, like pictures, and some of the same old things, such as typos, even though I used the computer’s spellchecker, I swear. So I hope the high tech-ness doesn’t take away from the thrilling content...yea, right...I’ve been such a stickler about the content before...ha ha ha ha ha ha...umm, what was I writing about? Oh, yea, this list. Well, enjoy!!!!!

During last year’s list I mentioned that I was disappointed in the quality of music that was released. Well, this year you could call me a broken record, as only a handful of artists offered anything that was worth spending a great deal of time with.
I guess the big rush of new and creative music has kind of slowed down in the middle of this decade. Granted, there are many bands still making music that would warm the cockles of my heart, but most likely they are making it for a tiny indie label that we’ll never hear of. I still hold hope out for music, especially when I get to see band I’ve never heard of play in small club and entertain me so much I almost forget I like to drink Rolling Rock. Shows by The Figgs, Egghead and Wilco have all restored my faith in live rock when I felt myself getting a little too jaded about the whole music thing. (And when I consider my job, there are plenty of times I can feel that way.) But enough whining already. One thing that seemed to come shining through in 1996 was that people wanted to be happy, or they wanted to buy Jagged Little Pill. (14 million and countin’) The airwaves and sales chart were dominated by happier tunes, and puh-lenty of one-hit wonders. (And I’ll admit, some of those one-hit kids are on these lists) 10 years from now people will look back and go, “damn, we really liked Dishwalla and Nada Surf? What the hell we were thinking?” It’s just like what we think of the early-to-mid ’80s today (except better hair now).
While these lists were again difficult to paste together, there was enough good stuff to make me spend a Friday night in December to put it together. So enjoy, and perhaps next year I’ll get Rolling Stone to print my exposé about the early life of yet another interview-shy rock star, Falco.
20) Weezer - Pinkerton
Many people have slammed it for not being as sonically smooth as their Ric Ocasek debut, but there’s nothing wrong with sloppiness (just look at my handwriting). It seems that Rivers Cuomo apparently wrote the all the songs basically about one girl he wanted. Hey, it worked for Clapton, why not him? Well, maybe that’s not the best example. Best Tracks: “The Good Life” “El Scorcho” “Tired Of Sex”
19) The Connells - Weird Food And Devastation
I got to know these guys after interviewing them, and they are the nicest guys you could hope to meet. It also helps that they’ve consistently made solid albums throughout their career. This album is no exception. It’s a grittier album too. Best Tracks: “Maybe” “Fifth Fret” “Adjective Song”
18) Counting Crows - Recovering The Satellites
Really, REALLY, Really wanted to dislike it just because a) I played “Mr. Jones” eight gazillion times and b) Adam Duritz is too damn whiny for someone who’s dated Jennifer Aniston and Courtney Cox. But after a few spins, I realized he’s got a knack for a catchy tunes. Well, I’ll hate the next Live album instead. Best Tracks: “A Long December” “Daylight Fading” “Angels Of The Silences”
17) Bad Religion - The Gray Race
Mr. Brett left, so this band is almost The Greg Graffin Experience now. But the most scholarly man in punk has “dumbed down” a bit. Plus, Mr. Ocasek’s production makes them sound better than they ever did before. Best Tracks: “Punk Rock Song” “A Walk” “Ten In 2010”
16) D Generation - No Lunch
Beaten down by THE MAN, they bounce back by signing to another huge corporation, and make an even better album. Might be too glam/metal learning for some (sayeth Johnny Reno, “They’re like the ’90s Poison”), but they rock. Best Tracks: "She Stands There” “Capitol Offender” “No Way Out”
15) Patti Smith - Gone Again
I chatted about this “comeback” album with a well-known freelance NY critic, and she told me that I shouldn’t bother to waste my time seeing Patti or listening to this album because she did it better in the late ‘70s. I say, show me someone who’s doing this better than her now, and then maybe I’ll listen to you. Best Tracks: “Summer Cannibals” “Gone Again” “Wicked Messenger”
14) Los Lobos - Colossal Head
They continue down the sonic experimentation path started by Kiko (and continued by the Latin Playboys side project, I’m told), and it still works. This album may not smash genres like Kiko, but it still shows a band at its peak. Best Tracks: “Mas Y Mas” “Revolution” “Can’t Stop The Rain”
13) Frank Zappa - Lather
Pronounced Leather, this 3 C-D set was what Frank imagined as his 1977 masterpiece over 8 sides of vinyl that never saw the light of day. His original (restored) vision presents a wealth of quality music. Riddle me this: Why couldn’t Michael Bolton gotten prostate cancer? Best Tracks: Any of them!!!!
12) Fugees - The Score
A musical treasure, but more importantly, a cultural landmark. This album totally defines crossover. And they play their own instruments. Best Tracks: “Fu-Gee-La” “Ready or Not” “Killing Me Softly”
11) Neil Young with Crazy Horse - Broken Arrow
Not up to par with his early ’90s work, but this album offers a jamming side of Neil that is reminiscent of Zuma. “Big Time” features some of his best personal lyrics. Best Tracks: “Big Time” “Changing Highways”
10) They Might Be Giants - Factory Showroom
A comeback of sorts for this band, after 1994’s dissapointing John Henry. The Johns seem to have mastered recording with a band (guitarist Eric Schemerhorn rocks), and the tunes are better. Plus, they cover Cub’s “New York City,” definitely the sign of a great band. Best Tracks: “New York City” “XTC vs. Adam Ant” “James K. Polk”
9) Paul Westerberg - Eventually
Yes, it doesn’t rock as much as The Mats, but the best songs on here are the mid-tempo ones. “Love Untold” is one of his best songs, ever, and any fan will tear up during “Good Day,” the tribute to Bob Stintson. Best Tracks: “Love Untold” “These Are The Days” “Good Day”
8) Beck - Odelay
Hey! He’s not a one-hit wonder! He’s just a guy who puts it all in a blender, dices it up, and comes up with greatness. Listen and hear a madman at work. All I can say is that two turntables and a microphone is the bestpenis reference in a song this year. Best Tracks: “Where It’s At” “Devil’s Haircut” “High 5”
7) Soundgarden - Down On the Upside
Not a great leap forward like Superunknown, but a solid album that has some flashes of Super’s brilliance. A perfect record to tour behind because it’s the best of the basics for them. Best Tracks: “Pretty Noose” “Ty Cobb” “Burden In My Hand”
6) Nirvana - From The Muddy Banks Of The Wishkah
Plug this in, and hear one the best live albums ever. An album that’s impossible to keep at a low volume. A fine counterpoint to the Unplugged. Best Tracks: Oh man, I can’t pick just three....
5) Pearl Jam - No Code
The Seattle triple shot is topped by an album that’s been slagged by fans and critics for various reasons. I guess that’s why I like it, because others don’t. Best Tracks: “Off He Goes” “Hail Hail” “Smile”
4) Wilco - Being There
A double c-d that deserves to be a double. All the tracks belong, the highest praise you could give a double album. Jeff Tweedy just keeps getting better as a songwriter. This sprawling album’s song styles jump from The Stones to The Dead to Country to The Beach Boys and who knows what else. Your move now Son Volt, top this one. Best Tracks: “Outta Mind (Outtasight)” “Monday” “I Got You”
3) Phish - Billy Breathes
I thought that my days of liking Phish were over after dealing with tons of kids at last year’s New Years Eve show at Madison Square Garden. But then they come back with their best studio album ever. These are songs, not just ideas to base a jam upon. The hook of “Free” and the tenderness in “Waste” are terrific. I don’t think I’ll ever seem them in concert again, but this album proves they can go into the studio and make music for us old folks. Hmmm, smell the patchouli...... Best Tracks: “Free” “Waste” “Prince Caspian”
2) The Figgs - Banda Macho
These guys are the hard luck kids. Release a great album on a label, watch it go under, get signed by an even bigger label, watch them push back your record for six months, then release it without a peep, then get dropped. So get this record now before it goes out of print. They deserve better. These guys are pop songwriters of first rate ability. The addition of guitarist Guy Lyons songwriting makes them even better. And they ROCK live. Best Tracks: “Bad Luck Sammie” “Kiss Off Baby” “Mold”
1) R.E.M. - New Adventures In Hi-Fi
They keep challenging themselves to create something different (and challenge us to listen to it). Many people said this album was a cross of Monster and Automatic For The People, but that would sell this stunning album short. It sounds like a tour; chaotic at some times (“Departure”), reflective at others (“Electrolite”) and sometimes just loud (“The Wake Up Bomb”). Still the best band making music today, hands down. Best Tracks: “Bittersweet Me” “Departure” “Electrolite”
20) Bloodhound Gang - “Fire Water Burn” This honky rap will go far in ’97, watch out.
19) D Generation - “She Stands There” Oh so quick, oh so good.
17) Cracker - “I Hate My Generation” Well, of course I do. Some of these people like 311 and Bush.
16) Metallica - “Until It Sleeps” Screw the fans who like “Master Of Puppets.” Kirk Hammett’s new guitar adventures in hi-fi don’t put me to sleep.
15) Oasis - “Don’t Look Back In Anger/Cum On Feel the Noize” A classic B-side that Liam sounds like he was born to sing.
14) Prince - “Betcha By Golly Wow” Great cover. Freedom sounds good to me.
13) Eels - “Novocaine For The Soul” This song is good..and so am I.
12) The Wallflowers - “6th Avenue Heartache” Again, hated it at first because of the guest vocal by Duritz, but now he makes this song about the street I work on.
11) Paul Westerberg - “Love Untold” Great lyrics about never getting the one you want.
9) Fugees - “Killing Me Softly” Cars are still booming it.
8) Beck - “Where It’s At” What is going on in this song??? I’m still puzzled.
7) Soundgarden - “Pretty Noose” Bringing the rock, one riff at a time.
6) Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - “Walls” Petty lives out a Brian Wilson fantasy, and
surprisingly, it works. Lindsey Buckingham’s backing vocals slay me every time.
5) Egghead - “Knock Off That Evil” A single with a song for everyone. Gotta get a new needle for my turntable because I’ve spun it so often.
4) No Doubt - “Spiderwebs” Yes, millions of teenage girls now love Gwen, but hey, I’m not going to let that stop me from enjoying some pure soon-to-be-a-one hit-album-wonder.
3) R.E.M. - “Bittersweet Me” A classic single from them, complete with lyrics that make no sense, and another great riff from Mr. Buck.
2) Garbage - “Only Happy When It Rains” At first it was Butch and the other people. Now it’s Shirley and the guys who back her up. The best song yet that Morrissey would like.
1) Phish - “Free” This song takes me to places outside the city every time I hear it. For the first time they are economical with their lyrics, and the song is better because of what’s not there.
Best Box Set & Best Discovery Of The Year
Cheap Trick - Sex, America, Cheap Trick For some reason, I never knew how great this band is. Look past the cheese (“The Flame”) and the almost cliché by now (“I Want You To Want Me”), and you’ll have a truckload of great pop gems. I must say, I have to give credit to my roommate Joe for playing guitar along with their earlier records. I would have never heard the great album cuts that never saw the radio light of day without that exposure. This box set has all the hits, and a good dose of key tracks. Plus, the unreleased cuts show that even during their low point in the late ’80s they still had quality music, it’s just that their record company didn’t see it that way. Be on the lookout for a tribute album early in ’97.
Best Compilation Of The Year
Dramarama - 18 Big Ones The band that should’ve made it but never did has all their best work on one album now. From “Anything, Anything” to “Last Cigarette” to “Haven’t Got A Clue” and some unreleased acoustic cuts, it’s a disc chock full of tunes that deserved to be big hits. Props to K-Rock in NYC though for bringing back “Anything, Anything” to the airwaves.
Best Concert Of The Year
(Tie) Wilco @ Mercury Lounge, NYC 12/2/96
Two totally different shows, but both great. It was to be the last NYC show for the godfathers of punk (Lollapalooza took care of that), and it seemed to many that they played with more emotion than usual. 35 songs in about 100 minutes, that’s they way rock should be. A great way to go out. Highlights are available on the Greatest Hits Live album. Wilco’s show seemed more about confrontation at first, as singer Jeff Tweedy tried to bait the crowd into doing something, but I’m not really sure what. It was a show as sprawling as their double C-D, and just as good. The highlight was when they left the stage after a one song encore, and then the lights and house music came up. Music weasels ran out in packs, and then the band came back on stage to play, surprising everyone. That second encore (which lasted 25 minutes) ranks up with some of the best music I’ve ever seen.
One Question For. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
I’ve had the chance to speak with some cool people in ’96. Here are some excerpts:
The Connells
SR: You had really big success in Europe with “’74-’75” a couple of years ago. How did that feel? (It was Top 10 in 12 countries)
Doug MacMillian: Pretty amazing. Just the fact that we were gonna have something released there in the first place was a big deal. And then the fact that it started doing well in one country was a big deal, and then all of a sudden it just snowballed. And sort of in the midst of it you realize ‘wow,’this is a big song. It was mind boggling to say the least. It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to us.
Mike Connell: It’s not so much a matter of feeling vindicated, it’s nothing like that. It was just some sense of relief. My suspicion, for a while, had been that some of these songs, which strike me as fairly catchy, under the right circumstances, could’ve appealed to a larger audience than we were reaching. So for me it was nice to finally to get some real evidence...to hammer home the point that one of these songs, under the right circumstances, could appeal to a lot of people.
SR: Do you think this record (Being There) helps break you out of the whole Country Rock/No Depression tag that fans try to put you under?
Jay Bennett: I hope so.
Jeff Tweedy: You would think so.
JB: It’s not a conscious attempt to break out of it really. There are more kinds of music out there to be played and to be listened to.
JT: We’re just trying to be honest about what we are doing ourselves. If we believed all that stuff (about us leading a country rock movement) or really felt like that was true or felt like that was a great thing to be a part of we would’ve manipulated ourselves into making a country-rock record or a record like A.M., which I don’t think they (the No Depression people) liked very much. Like it wasn’t country enough, I don’t understand.
JB: Two non-country rock albums and somehow we’re still a part of it
JT: Yea, I know.
(laughter between all three of us)
The Figgs
SR: With four different people writing in the band, how do you figure out what to put on an album?
Mike Gent: Well, I figure since I’ve been writing the songs the longest I get to have the most songs. (laughs) No, what we try to do is pick the best songs, or what we think are the best songs. It doesn’t matter who has the most. Maybe the next record, if Pete (Donnelly) has a good majority of what we would consider to be the best songs, he would get the most songs on the record. Usually the things we argue about is if we put a 7” who’s gonna have the A-side.
Pete Hayes: You try and do what’s best for the record, you know. You’ve gotta put yourself sort of beside it.
MG: On this record there’s two songs that Guy (Lyons) wrote that he wrote when we first started the band in ’87. It’s not that we had a lack of songs, but we went back to a list of songs and picked out some songs that we thought were pretty good and always wanted to record, but never did.
PH: It sort of shows a little of the roots of the band too.
I guess everybody has to have an obsession, right? Whether it’s their weight, looks, sports team, band, etc., it’s a (well sometimes un-) healthy way to focus our energies. My obsession of this year is featured all over this page. Miss Janeane Garofalo. Even typing those words into this keyboard is cool.
When did this obsession start, might you ask? Well, one of my visits to NYC led myself and a fellow Janeane-ophile to spend a cold January night looking for her when she was still a cast member of Saturday Night Live. An acquaintance of mine said he had run into her at the Whiskey in the Paramount Hotel, so we spent too much money on expensive beer hoping she would show up. I guess that’s where it started. I don’t know how it got built up to me searching the web for pictures to put on this page, but it did.
What makes her so great? It can be summed up in four words: Humor & Low Self-Esteem. She’s one of the funniest people on the planet right now, and she also doesn’t think (at least in her public persona) that much of her own looks. A perfect match.
What has probably cooled down my obsession so I won’t stalk her? Well I met her at a video shoot for The Rutles. While turning from the bar, I bumped into someone. I said, “Excuse Me.” She replied, “No, pardon me.” I saw her face - - then lost the ability to speak. Damn. I blew it. Oh well. She moved on to chat with other people, and I stood there stunned. But if I do meet her again, I’ve got a great opening line. I can say, “Hey, we worked on The Rutles video together.” (I ended up appearing as an extra, and she is in the video.) Then I can work my charm... Hey, a man can dream, can’t he?
No Animals, Vehicles, Rockers, NY Jets players, Talk Show Hosts, any Blowfish or any Ironic statements were harmed during the making of this year’s Top 20 list.
Thank you.
The section to thank people without whom...
First, I need to thank Visa for giving me a large enough credit line to purchase the computer. (Suckers!!!) Thanks to the people who already sent me Xmas cards and said they were looking forward to this years list. And very special thanks to THE MAN for use of supplies (including this program) to get the job done this year.
Now onto the personal thanks......
Maria, Jason, Ann & Deb for the artists; Mike & Pete H of The Figgs, Jeff & Jay of Wilco, Doug, Mike, George and Peele of The Connells and Paul Westerberg for being able to sit through my dumb questions. (Plus thanks to all of The Connells for a lot of fun in NY & Conan);Bruce S. for some programming help; Maurice; Sal; Jodie for the bringing the wisdom of Lieber und Stoller to this year’s list, the guys in Egghead for bringing the rock every time; Joe, whose own purchasing of a Mac led me to want my own p.c at home because its so much darn fun!!!!!!!

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