Underration: Some underrated Albums.
What are the most underrated rock albums? It’s a tough definition, and one that lends itself to subjectivity immediately. I mean, The velvet underground with Nico didn’t SELL much, but critics all get on their knees and face east whenever the name comes up, so… it’s out.
After much thought, the definition became simple: an underrated album is a record that discerning musical fans should have in their collection but for some reason many of them don’t.
So here are a few.
-It’s hard to say that a Stones album doesn’t get enough love. But with ‘Exile’, ‘Sticky Fingers’ ‘Let it Bleed’ and ‘Some Girl’s’ getting most of the attention, ‘Black and Blue’ gets lost in the shuffle.
The Stones were replacing Mick Taylor at the time and Keith Richards calls the album basically an “audition for guitar players”. Alabama born Wayne Perkins is all over the record and was considered before deciding on fellow Brit Ronnie Wood.
Stylistically, ‘Black and Blue’ embraces funk with “Hot Stuff”; reggae with their cover of “Cherry Oh Baby”; and jazzy blues with “Melody”, featuring the talents of Billy Preston. Musical and thematic styles were merged on the seven-minute wonderful “Memory Motel”, with both Jagger and Richards contributing lead vocals to a love song embedded within a life-on-the-road tale.
– Billy Joel sold more records with ‘The Stranger’ and ‘Glass Houses’ but for my money his best (and almost only record that stands up as timeless today) is ‘The Nylon Curtain’. It opens with “Allentown,” a bittersweet lament about Pennsylvania’s factory workers. Joel makes it clear with this opening track that the lyrical element on this record will be different than what you’re used to from him.
-Elton John became a superstar with ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ but his third album ‘Tumbleweed Connection’ should have made him one already.
There was no single released from this album, which is why it’s usually unjustly forgotten in compilations. As it turns out, it’s one of Elton’s absolute best, with nary a filler song among the multiple gems. The record was the first indication of that absolutely mad creative rush that would characterize the man’s work for the next five years. It’s sort of a very loose concept album dedicated to the topics of the Old Wild West, with more than half of the songs dealing with outlaws, confederates, missions and so on. Musically, though, Tumbleweed Connection is not that much removed from its predecessor – piano ballads and piano rockers with a strong guitar presence, but on certain tracks there’s definitely a strong American roots-rock influence, such as the steel guitar and fiddle on ‘Country Comfort’, for instance.
-In the aftermath of the Beatles, John Lennon had classic albums like Imagine and Plastic Ono Band, Paul McCartney had Wings and Band On The Run and Ringo had . . . well, Ringo had Barbara Bach. The silent Beatle’s solo career, like his stint in the most famously analyzed and studied of bands, was dwarfed by the attention paid to Lennon & McCartney. But Harrison had the first classic among them with ‘All Things Must Pass’. Harrison’s first true solo effort is unquestionably his most triumphant. The record’s success comes from its combination of ‘Let it Be’ era songs like All Things Must Pass, fresher material like What Is Life and Wah Wah. My Sweet Lord is a sonic masterpiece and both versions of “Isn’t it a Pity” will break your heart. Harrison’s comment on releasing a THREE record set was that it was like he had been “constipated” for years with The Beatles. He could finally….well you know.
An underrated album by the underrated Beatle.
-The seventh album by Harry Nilsson, ‘Nilsson Shmillson’ has to be on the list as well. Eclectic as it’s artist, it showed off the range of one of the world’s greatest vocalist. Consider the difference in the three singles released from the album: the soaring over the top emotion of Badfinger’s “Without you”, to the jokey calypso number using one single chord (C7) “Coconut”, to the raucous, screaming “Jump into the fire”. Unfortunately his lifestyle caught up with him after this and it was basically all downhill from here.
-Badfinger: ‘Straight Up’. It defines power pop
-Anything by Lucinda Williams. If you don’t have one her records, do yourself a favor….
-Traveling Wilburys: With the star power of this band, and all the completely effortless songs, why aren’t they a staple on classic rock radio?
– Keith Richards: ‘Talk is Cheap’. I’m not saying it proved who the heart and soul of the Stones were, but Mick sure wanted to get back together pretty quick after this….
– Izzy Stradlin And the Ju Ju Hounds: I am saying it here. Heart and soul. Okay, Slash is no slouch, but damn!
-Bad Company: ‘Run with The Pack’. Best album they made, and probably the least owned.
-Buckingham Nicks: ‘Buckingham Nicks’. The “lost” album. Bootlegs are out there but it’s not available on CD or download. A brilliant record that was a commercial failure, even though it secured a spot for the two of them in Fleetwood Mac.
-LATE ADDITION: Something/ Anything from Todd Rundgren.
If The Beach Boys‘ Pet Sounds was the landmark studio pop project of the sixties, then Something/Anything is the early-’70s equivalent. Rundgren’s pop hooks were his bread and butter, and the three hits from the record, ‘I Saw The Light’, ‘Hello, it’s me’ and ‘It wouldn’t have made any difference’ only touch at the double record sets’ ambition and coolness.
Like I said, subjective as can be. So you MUST have your own list….