Sunday, March 12, 2017

TAD's Top 100+ Strange Music albums

OK, here's 105 or so above-average "Strange Music" albums I've been able to get all the way through over the years, in more-or-less descending order of quality. And ranking them wasn't easy. With commentary....
* Beach Boys -- SMILE (1967). Way ahead of its time. "Surf's Up," "Cabinessence," "Heroes and Villains."
* Gryphon -- RED QUEEN TO GRYPHON THREE (1974). Best all-instrumental prog album ever. "Lament."
* Gryphon -- TREASON (1977). A kinder, gentler Jethro Tull album. "Spring Song" should have been an art-rock landmark.
* Caravan -- FOR GIRLS WHO GROW PLUMP IN THE NIGHT (1973). Gorgeous swinging big sound, silly lyrics. "Memory Lain," "The Dog," "Be All Right," "Surprise," "Hunting...."
* Yes -- YESSONGS (1973). So great you can throw one record away and not miss much. "Close to the Edge."
* Nick Drake -- BRYTER LAYTER (1970). Gorgeous, heartbreaking urban folk. "Hazey Jane II," "At the Chime of a City Clock," "Northern Sky," "Fly."
* Moody Blues -- THE PRESENT (1982). They should have retired after this. Mellow, nostalgic, their best. "Blue World," "Sorry."
* Group 87 -- (1st) (1980). Second-best all-instrumental prog album ever. "One Night Away From Day."
* Providence -- EVER SENSE THE DAWN (1972). A kinder, gentler Moody Blues album. "Fantasy Fugue," "If We Were Wise," "Neptune's Door."
* Renaissance -- LIVE AT CARNEGIE HALL (1976). Beats their studio albums to death. "Can You Understand?", "Running Hard," first three minutes of "Ashes are Burning."
* Beatles -- ABBEY ROAD (1969). Complex enough? Side 2 suite.
* The Who -- WHO'S NEXT (1971). If only for Pete's synthesizer work....
* Beach Boys -- PET SOUNDS (1966). Bad for parties, you can't dance to it.... "God Only Knows," "Here Today," "Let's Go Away for Awhile," "Trombone Dixie."
* King Crimson -- YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE best-of (1976). This will Change Your Life. And the booklet of press clippings and diary entries is amazing.
* King Crimson -- THE GREAT DECEIVER/LIVE 1973-74 (1992). Better than any of their studio albums from the time. "Doctor Diamond," "Larks I and II," "Talking Drum," "Fracture."
* Gentle Giant -- PRETENTIOUS best-of (1978). Really their best, missing only "Think of Me With Kindness." "Raconteur Troubadour," "Pentegruel's Nativity," "The Advent of Panurge."
* Caravan -- CANTERBURY TALES best-of (1976). The 2-disc Decca album is actually stronger than the 2-CD best-of with the same title, which is also recommended.... "For Richard," "The Dog," "Memory Lain," "The Love in Your Eye," "Nine Feet Underground"....
* Illusion -- OUT OF THE MIST (1977). Best studio album Renaissance never did.
* Fairport Convention, etc. -- FAIRPORT CHRONICLES best-of (1972). Brilliant electric folk. "Come All Ye," "Listen Listen," "I'll Keep it With Mine," "Tale in Hard Time," "Meet on the Ledge," "The Way I Feel."
* Genesis -- A TRICK OF THE TAIL (1976). Gorgeous pastoral mood-music. "Ripples," "Madman Moon."
* U.K. -- (1st) (1978). Crashing drama. "Time to Kill," "Mental Medication," "In the Dead of Night."
* Moody Blues -- A QUESTION OF BALANCE (1970). "It's Up to You," "Question."
* Moody Blues -- TO OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN'S CHILDREN (1969). Distant, icy, haunting. "Gypsy," "Out and In," "Watching and Waiting," "Eyes of a Child Part 2."
* Fleetwood Mac -- TUSK (1979). Hazy, atmospheric, haunting. "I Know I'm Not Wrong," "Sisters of the Moon."
* Kansas -- LEFTOVERTURE (1976). Great balancing act. That they couldn't keep up. "Miracles Out of Nowhere," "Questions of My Childhood," "Cheyenne Anthem," "The Wall," "What's On My Mind."
* Queen -- A NIGHT AT THE OPERA (1976). Arty enough for ya? "'39," "The Prophet's Song," "Death on Two Legs."
* Happy the Man -- CRAFTY HANDS (1978). Gorgeous waterfalls of melody. "Wind-Up Doll Day Wind," "Service With a Smile," "Open Book."
* Camel -- NUDE (1981). Pretty gorgeous. "City Life," "Drafted," "Captured."
* Clannad -- MACALLA (1986) -- Dark, with enough drama to vary the mood. "The Wild Cry," "Indoor," "Blackstairs," "Journey's End."
* Moody Blues -- DAYS OF FUTURE PASSED (1967). Can't beat the songs on Side 2. "Peak Hour," "Time to Get Away."
* Moody Blues -- LONG DISTANCE VOYAGER (1980). "Meanwhile," "Nervous," "Veteran Cosmic Rocker," "In My World."
* Justin Hayward and John Lodge -- BLUE JAYS (1975). "When You Wake Up."
* Caravan -- BLIND DOG AT ST. DUNSTAN'S (1976) -- High-quality end to a career. "All the Way," "Can You Hear Me?"
* Sky -- SKY2 (1980). You really CAN throw one side away and miss nothing. "Vivaldi," "Fifo," "Watching the Aeroplanes," "Scipio."
* Camel -- THE SNOW GOOSE (1975). Beautiful mellow instrumentals. "Flight of the Snow Goose," "Rhayader," "Rhayader Goes to Town," "Preparation/Dunkirk."
* Dire Straits -- MAKIN' MOVIES (1980). Cinematic. "Romeo and Juliet," "Hand in Hand," "Expresso Love."
* Al Stewart -- MODERN TIMES (1975). Smooth and consistent. Side 2's perfect.
* Wigwam -- NUCLEAR NIGHTCLUB (1974). "Bless Your Lucky Stars."
* Camel -- ECHOES best-of (1993). LOTSA great stuff here, tho the commercial stuff is a waste....
* Grace Slick -- DREAMS (1980). You want drama? Check this out. "Full Moon Man," almost everything else....
* Suzanne Vega -- (1st) (1985). Folk music? Crystal-clear production, so sharp it hurts. "Cracking," "Freeze Tag," "Small Blue Thing."
* Strawbs -- STORY IN MUSIC best-of (1981, Italian import). Some of their best stuff is here, including their best moment ever, the angry live "Where is This Dream of Your Youth?"
* Steve Tibbetts -- YR (1980). Rockin' instrumentals from a Minnesota guitarist. Best: The opening guitar-meltdown "Ur."
* Glass Moon -- (1st) (1980). Genesis should have sounded like this when they went commercial. "Solsbury Hill," "Sundays and Mondays."
* Yes -- GOING FOR THE ONE (1977). "Wonderous Stories," "Turn of the Century."
* Hollies -- ROMANY (1972). Atmospheric, moody, spacey. Not a bunch of commercial sing-songy wanna-be hits.
* ELO -- TIME (1981). Cheezy sci-fi future, full of filler. And you'll love it. "Twilight," "The Way Life's Meant to Be," "Yours Truly, 2095."
* Gentle Giant -- FREE HAND (1975). Starts and ends weakly, but the middle's great. "His Last Voyage," "On Reflection," "Time to Kill."
* Rush -- CHRONICLES best-of (1990). So good you can almost throw the first disc away. "Time Stand Still," "Force Ten," "Manhattan Project."
* Caravan -- WATERLOO LILY (1972). Jazzy. "The World is Yours," "Aristocracy," "The Love in Your Eye."
* Pink Floyd -- DARK SIDE OF THE MOON (1973). I don't play it much, but it's genius....
* Sally Oldfield -- WATER BEARER (1978). Gorgeous LORD OF THE RINGS-style music, with a Middle-Eastern undercurrent. Title song, "Songs of the Quendi," "Land of the Sun," "Fire and Honey," "Night of the Hunter's Moon."
* Space Art -- A TRIP TO THE HEAD CENTER (1976). Best synthesizer album ever. "Speedway," "Odyssey," "Watch It."
* Alan Parsons Project -- THE INSTRUMENTAL WORKS (1988). Predictable but gorgeous. "The Gold Bug," "Where's the Walrus?"
* Camel -- BREATHLESS (1978). Side 1's great, Side 2's spotty. Title song, "Echoes," "Down on the Farm," "Summer Lightning."
* Moody Blues -- EVERY GOOD BOY DESERVES FAVOUR (1971). "Our Guessing Game," "You Can Never Go Home," "Story in Your Eyes."
* Al Stewart -- YEAR OF THE CAT (1976). Cool and distant. "Flying Sorcery," "Lord Grenville," "One Stage Before."
* Dire Straits -- LOVE OVER GOLD (1982). More dramatic soundtracks. "Telegraph Road," title song.
* Jethro Tull -- SONGS FROM THE WOOD (1977). They shoulda been a folk band. "The Whistler," "Ring Out Solstice Bells," "Fire at Midnight."
* Genesis -- AND THEN THERE WERE THREE (1978). Moody-Blues-ish. "Undertow," "Deep in the Motherlode," "Down and Out," "Burning Rope."
* Hawkwind -- HALL OF THE MOUNTAIN GRILL (1974). Heavy space-rock. "You'd Better Believe It," "Lost Johnny."
* Jefferson Starship -- FREEDOM AT POINT ZERO (1979). Great science-fiction chorales. "Fading Lady Light," "Things to Come," "Awakening," title song.
* King Crimson -- RED (1974). "Starless" is probably their greatest piece ever. Title song's no slouch, either.
* Kate Bush -- NEVER FOR EVER (1980). Peter Gabriel reincarnated as a woman. "Delius (Song of Summer)," "The Wedding List."
* Kate Bush -- THE KICK INSIDE (1978). Brave and sweet. "The Man With the Child in His Eyes," "Saxophone Song," "Strange Phenomena," "Kite."
* The Jam -- SETTING SONS (1979). New-wave concept album about the end of the world -- or today. "Private Hell," "Little Boy Soldiers," "Thick as Thieves"....
* Pete Townshend -- PSYCHODERELICT (1992). Whadda ya know? A rock opera! "Now and Then."
* Pink Floyd -- WISH YOU WERE HERE (1975). Talk about distant.... Nice textures, though.
* Pink Floyd -- THE WALL (1979). "One of My Turns," "The Trial," "In the Flesh?"
* Pink Floyd -- PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN (1967). Psychedelic. "Flaming," "Chapter 24," "Bike," "Astronome Domine."
* King Crimson -- DISCIPLINE (1980). Great hypnotic meshing guitars. "Frame By Frame," "Elephant Talk," "Indiscipline."
* Amazing Blondel -- FANTASIA LINDUM (1972). Taking you back to 1600. That's a concept. Whole first side, "Three Seasons Almaine," "Toye," "Safety in God Alone."
* King Crimson -- STARLESS AND BIBLE BLACK (1974). "Great Deceiver," "Fracture."
* Moody Blues -- ON THE THRESHOLD OF A DREAM (1969). "Lovely to See You," "Never Comes the Day," "In the Beginning."
* David Sancious and Tone -- TRANSFORMATION (THE SPEED OF LOVE) (1976). The side-long title track will Alter Your Mind. There's also a gorgeous piano piece, and a wild Hendrix impersonation....
* Dixie Dregs -- DREGS OF THE EARTH (1980). Nice show-offy instrumentals. "Hereafter," "The Great Spectacular," "I'm Freaking Out."
* Rush -- MOVING PICTURES (1981). "The Camera Eye," "Red Barchetta."
* Alan Parsons Project -- I ROBOT (1977). "Some Other Time."
* King Crimson -- LARKS' TONGUES IN ASPIC (1973). Mixed too trebly, but there's some good stuff here. "Easy Money" is raunchy and funny, "Talking Drum" is pretty amazing, "Exiles" is moody. The rest sounds better on the GREAT DECEIVER box.
* Beatles -- SGT. PEPPER (1967). I don't play it much. But still....
* Camel -- DUST AND DREAMS (1991). The actual songs are strong. The rest is dramatic soundtrack music for Steinbeck's GRAPES OF WRATH.
* Yes -- DRAMA (1980). "Tempus Fugit," "White Car," "I Am a Camera."
* Mark Knopfler, etc. -- LOCAL HERO soundtrack (1983). "Going Home."
* Camel -- RAIN DANCES (1977). "Unevensong," "First Light," title song.
* Jethro Tull -- STORMWATCH (1979). "Dark Ages," "Dun Ringill."
* Caravan -- CARAVAN AND THE NEW SYMPHONIA (1974). "For Richard," "Virgin on the Ridiculous."
* Kevin Ayers -- ODD DITTIES (1976). Great silly fun.
* Synergy -- SEQUENCER (1976). "S-Scape," "Icarus," "Classical Gas." Melodic synth music.
* Gryphon -- RAINDANCE (1975). "(Ein Klein) Heldenleben," "Wallbanger."
* Camel -- I CAN SEE YOUR HOUSE FROM HERE (1979). The commercial stuff's annoying, but there's also gorgeous stuff like "Eye of the Storm" and "Who We Are."
* Rick Wakeman -- WHITE ROCK (1976). Olympics soundtrack had more energy than anything he'd done in awhile....
* Pete Townshend -- ALL THE BEST COWBOYS HAVE CHINESE EYES (1982). Damn, he's wordy. But the second side's pretty great. "Slit Skirts."
* Manfred Mann's Earth Band -- CHANCE (1980). A mechanical sound like nothing else. And then there's "Stranded"....
* Fleet Foxes -- (1st) (2008). Acoustic-folk meets the Beach Boys' SMILE. "Blue Ridge Mountains."
* Florence + the Machine, CEREMONIALS (2011) -- Pounding, booming empowerment songs. Throw the photo booklet away. "Shake it Out."
* Can -- ANTHOLOGY (1993). Some truly twisted stuff here. "Father Cannot Yell," "Uphill," "Mother Upduff."
* Supertramp -- CRIME OF THE CENTURY (1975). "Dreamer," "School," title song. Kinda mainstream, but it least it ain't BREAKFAST IN AMERICA....
* The Move -- MESSAGE FROM THE COUNTRY (1972). The heavily-produced stuff is AMAZING. The fake-rockabilly throwbacks are just odd. Title song, "Do Ya?," "Tonite."
* King Crimson -- IN THE COURT OF THE CRIMSON KING (1969). Half sounds like Heavy Moody Blues. But "21st Century Schizoid Man" sounds like nothing else. Ever.
* Camel -- THE SINGLE FACTOR (1982) -- Half a great album. Second side is pretty amazing. First side plunges off a cliff.
* Spirit -- 12 DREAMS OF DOCTOR SARDONCIUS (1970). Opens and closes strong. Middle gets weird. "Nature's Way," "Nothing to Hide."
* King Crimson -- FRAME BY FRAME 4-CD best-of (1991). The edits hurt, but there's some great stuff here. And the booklet that goes with it...."Sleepless," "Barber Shop," "Sailor's Tale," much more.
* Manfred Mann's Earth Band -- ANGEL STATION (1979). First side's solid. Then it starts to wind down.... "Belle of the Earth," "Don't Kill it Carol," "Hollywood Town."
* Kinks -- VILLAGE GREEN PRESERVATION SOCIETY (1968). Modest, quiet album about small-town English life. Title song, "Days."
* Mike Oldfield -- TUBULAR BELLS (1973). Have heard this way too much.
* Alan Parsons Project -- TURN OF A FRIENDLY CARD (1980). Smooth, predictable, almost dull. But then there's "The Gold Bug"....
* Weather Report -- 8:30/LIVE (1980). Yeah, it's jazz-rock. But a lot of it REALLY MOVES. "Bahia/Boogie Woogie Waltz" is supreme noise.
* Van der Graaf Generator -- PAWN HEARTS (1971). Spooky.
* Sky -- SKY3 (1981). Kinda dull, but. "Meheeco," "Connecting Rooms."
* Journey -- DREAM AFTER DREAM (1980). Spacey, atmospheric soundtrack. A little short. Steve Perry doesn't sing much.
* Gong -- YOU (1974). "Master Builder," "A Sprinkling of Clouds."
This list will likely be revised, rearranged and expanded in the future. I'm sure I must have missed something....
COMING SOON: A much shorter list of the worst Strange Music albums....

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