It ain't pretty being easy... (soopageek) wrote,
It ain't pretty being easy...

Top 100 Albums Project: 100

Over the course of this next year I plan to visit all of my favorite records, one by one in intimate fashion.  My purpose in this undertaking is two-fold.  The primary reason is to turn a critical eye toward my favorite records and  maybe figure out just what it is I love about them so much.  It is a challenge to myself to think about them, pull them apart and assemble it into a review, a love letter, or whatever it becomes.  The secondary reason is that, while doing this, maybe I can turn some of you onto something you're not familiar with.  My favorite albums run from one end of the spectrum to the other and I'm sure there will be something in there that will appeal to everyone on my f-list in some fashion or another.

That said, my favorite 100 records do have a theme running through them.  While there are records I adore from all genres, the bulk of it is decidedly rock and roll.  And a good deal of it is hard rock and roll.  I know where this comes from, actually.  The first rock and roll song I can remember hearing was The Beatles "Revolution" - the rockin' single version and not the pussified doo-wop album version.  It should also be noted that a good deal of this music was recorded in the late 80's to mid 90's.  I make no apologies for this as these were the years I "came of age" musically.  It was at a time in my life when I was DJ'ing college radio and listening to vasts amount of music on a daily basis during the independent label/college rock boom of that era.

I would also like to add that this list is a list of favorites and nothing more.  This is in no way a list of what I think are the "best" records of all time.  Music, and art in general, is subjective for the person who observes it.  I've never been able to be objective about music/art.  I only know that I like it... this little experiment is to be a study of why I like it.  I'm sure my writing on this subject will at times be sentimental, possibly with anecdotes recalling the first time I heard this or that.

Finally, I refrained from having compilations in this list with the exception of one which was too much of a favorite to ignore.  Anthologies by a particular artist, on the other hand, I considered fair game.  I also made no distinction between LP's and EP's -  it's a nit-picky distinction at best in this age of 72 minute albums. Any pre-CD  "LP" would be considered an "EP" by today's standards.

So without further ado....

Soopageek's Favorite 100 Albums

100.  Hustlers Convention - Lightnin' Rod (United Artists, 1973)

It was a full moon in the middle of June in the summer of '59
I was young and cool and shot a bad game of pool and hustled all the chumps I could find
They called me Sport 'cos I pushed the ball short
And I loved all the women to death
I partied hard, packed a mean rod
And I could knock you out with the right or left

And so begins Lightnin' Rod's tall-tale of the Hustler's Convention.  Sport and his main-man Spoon are streetwise hustlers who are befriended by Brother Hominy Grit who has an inside track on the underworld gathering for which the album is named.  The album is filled with colorful characters and chock-full of 70's era jive.  Some of the language is definitely dated but for the most part, it is the same sort of smooth-talking urban dialect you would associate with the blaxploitation flicks of the day.  By the way, if the above quote sounds a little familiar but you've never heard of Lightnin' Rod, go pull out your copy of the Red Hot Chili Peppers Freaky Styley LP and re-visit it.

The music, provided largely by Kool and the Gang, is typical, if not generic, Superfly/Shaft soul-funk.  It permeates like a soundtrack -  providing accompaniment without eclipsing the story.  It provides emphasis and mood rather than being the centerpeice.  In particular I like how "Hammond's Hall Was Big" begins with simple background noises of people talking and honking horns as Sport describes the convention hall where all the hustlers were congregating outside.  The action moves from the sidewalk to the hat-check near the front door and the faint sounds of a band can be heard in the distance.  As Sport and Spoon move inside checking out "Hamhock's Hall" the music grows louder as if you are moving along with them.  Suddenly you realize you're listening to a jump-blues band cover Buddy Miles' "Them Changes".  By the time Sport acknowledges that there is a band in the hall, the music is full-tilt into a Hammond organ solo...  tying the music back to the title of the track.

The real joy here, though,  comes from Lightnin' Rod's cool, pre-rap flow and its predictable rhythm and rhyme scheme.  Like rap, it is often profane and full of street vernacular but is often very poetic....  consider these:

I chose a 20 ounce cue that was just like new
While Stingy been rackin' 'em up
I chalked my tip, snapped the cue like a whip
Then watched the balls erupt

The break was so loud that it hushed the crowd
They all grew quiet and still
I had sunk the one and thus begun
The test of my poolroom skill

I put English on the cue then dropped the two
Then sank the three and the four
Continued my drive by bankin' the five
While Spoon kept track of the score

I dropped the six then just for kicks
Sank the seven and eight
Pocketed the nine and the ten then chalked-up again
While Stingy been ponderin' his fate

I needed one more shot to win this pot
While Slim was prayin' I'd miss
But his hell was my heaven as I sighted the eleven
And sank it on a rail-shot kiss

                                    -"The Break So Was Loud It Hushed The Crowd"

The poker table was crowded and heavily enshrouded
With the smoke of the player's cigars
They were drinkin' and smokin' and snortin' and cokin'
And being watched by two underworld czars

                                  -"Four Bitches Is What I Got"

By all accounts it is a concept album in the truest sense of the word.  Individual tracks can be enjoyed independent of each other however they are best appreciated as a whole.  If you ever come across this record in a bargain bin somewhere, I strongly recommend that you cough-up the few bucks to get it, you won't be sorry.

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