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Personal Bests: January 23rd, 2015

volunteers of amerika

volunteers of amerika

Elvis Costello – Sequentially, near the top of his career, Costello was suddenly a superstar but also somewhat more like a 21st century superstar. He wasn’t selling boat loads of albums, he was feeling theatres but not arenas, he was on the road, but he was a hint and a rumor, with everything just waiting for the drugged up, bad tempered and exhausted Costello to explode on the scene, when he released Get Happy!! wordy in the extreme, the 20 songs were like having a thesaurus of similes for uh oh thrown at you while Steve Nieve vamped on keyboards. It reached number 11 in the States but successfully derailed his career. And while not his only masterpiece, Imperial Bedroom and King Of America hadn’t happened yet, he was never this great again.

Jay Z- “She wanted us to end because I fucked her friend, she gave me one more chance so I fucked her again…” Forget simply changing the history of popular music, that’s cool but that’s not why Hard Knock Life, Vol 2 is Jay Z’s best, it is because everything he would ever do again, he would do here and he would do it with so much humor and flow, and smarts it made gangsta mainstream. We dont care about crack rock and hos one way or the other, unless you can do it with so much wit and humor it takes your breath away. It makes you stare in amazement. And, like I said, the title track with it’s “Annie” sample? More than a sample, the lesson he learnt from Biggie and Diddy brought to life, it softened and mainstreamed hip hop. It changed him and us. turn the bassline up.

Jefferson Airplane – It is almost impossible to remember Jefferson Airplane like this. Surrealistic Pillow was in 1967, two years and three albums later Volunteers, a psychedelic, hard rock throw down of agit propaganda that heralded the end of the 1969, the end of maybe the greatest decade of them all . Jefferson Starship might well have been filled with love and peace but that doesn’t mean they weren’t angry and it doesn’t mean, as Marty Balin proved, they wouldn’t stand up even if they got cold cocked for their troubles. If “We Can Be Together” sounded like a good trip (man, that Grace Slick can sing, how did you lose her cool?) it wasn’t, it was based on Black Panther’s war cry, “Up against the, motherfucker”) and from there it blows blues hot (try a terrific “Wooden Ships” and folk cool. Add on top two of the best songs of the 1960s, the title track and “Somebody To Love”,  and you have a career peak.

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