Essay # 5
OVERRATE ME, UNDERRATE ME, BUT DON'T DISCRIMINATE ME
We have yet to see a completely independent record review site - i. e. a site that never takes into account other people's evaluations of at least some music reviewed on it. Supposedly this is possible only in theory: music reviewing doesn't happen in a vacuum, and every reviewer is either influenced by preceding reviewers (whose authority he's either upholding or trying to denigrate from time to time) or is at least vaguely informed of music's previous treatment on some level, whether it be the press, the charts, or the reviewer's own family. And whenever the comparisons happen, there is a high probability that you'll encounter the words 'overrated' and 'underrated' in cases of the reviewer's disagreement on either of these levels. This reaches a culmination in lists like '10 Most Overrated Records In History' or 'Top 5 Underrated Guitar Players Of All Time'.
Needless to say, these lists are a total gas to compile. They are definitely important in helping us better understand the reviewer's general attitude towards music, and furthermore, they have some practical use. For instance, a record buyer might lower his expectations for a certain record if he sees it in the 'Most Overrated Albums' list, and then, if it turns out to be overrated indeed, he won't be all that disappointed. Even better, making your own 'Underrated Albums' list might help people discover a hidden gem that's been unjustly overlooked over time. Very satisfactory.
Still, one can't get rid of the feeling that there's something slightly wrong going on with this 'over/under-rated' thing. The term itself doesn't require a particularly complex definition: it simply means 'assigned a bigger/smaller amount of valuability than is necessary'. However, to apply a perfectly sane chemical/linguistic term, it's the valencies of this notion that require some further clarification. Essentially, SOMEBODY 'over/underrates' SOMETHING in SOME WAY by SOME DEGREE. And out of these 'valencies', only the 'SOMETHING' one is obvious - it's the album/band/player, etc., in question. Without defining the other parameters, no 'overrated' list can even approach claiming objectivity. Example: if my 90-year old neighbour from downstairs passionately hates the Beatles because 'they're too loud', can I call the Beatles an 'underrated' band? If a Rolling Stone critic dearly loves the Sex Pistols because 'they invented punk rock', can I call the Sex Pistols 'overrated'? That's a question.
Before passing judgement, then, let us discuss all of these parameters separately.
I. SOMEBODY. This is perhaps the flimsiest part of all the 'over/underrated' lists. Overrated by whom? The editors of Rolling Stone? The general record-buying public in 1975? Today's lovers of Limp Bizkit? Wilson & Alroy (even these guys disagree from time to time?) The local milkman? Your favourite pet? Or is this decided statistically by summing everything up and counting the average? Guess not. This is why whenever somebody makes up an 'overrated' list, he always ends up with some reader comment that says something like, 'wait a minute, these guys/records are not overrated at all. Everybody I know gives them five stars, so what the...?'. And ends up totally confused.
Perhaps the most common 'accused' is the guy who sports the name 'General Critical Opinion' (GCO for short). This is primarily represented by all those who write reviews and critical articles for huge musical magazines like Rolling Stone, Spin, and others. Fame has certainly exaggerated their importance and influence on the modern life of the society, but there's no use arguing that they don't influence it: numerous people have been brainwashed by the approach assumed by these editions, and, after all, their ties with the crippled musical industry of today have already become legendary. The GCO is by all accounts the enemy # 1 of independent, non-commercial review sites, and, in fact, of an absolute majority of that well-educated, intelligent part of the public that wishes to be free of any kind of brainwashing, preferring to form their own opinions based on their own experiences. It is no surprise, then, that the 'over/underrated album lists' are usually envisaged as bold anti-GCO statements. The situation is actually a bit more complex here, because the GCO is also far from the stable, monolithic system of corrupt values as we envisage it: some 'professional critical groups' are more conservative and some are less conservative and more forgiving. And one needn't forget about the difference in environments: for instance, if there is such a thing as a GCO in Russia, it differs from the American GCO by 180% degrees (just one example: in Russia, it's quite trendy to acknowledge progressive rock as one of the greatest musical genres of the XXth century, whereas the American GCO dumps prog rock in the toilet without any exceptions). Still, let us for the moment concentrate on American/European GCO and picture it as more or less represented by the Rolling Stone type of approach. This is rough, but it works to a certain degree.
A natural question arises, then: what's it to us? Yes, one of the independent web reviewers' main goals is to present a nice little alternative to the GCO, and nothing can be sweeter than to deal a few decisive death blows to those dumbheads from Spin. However, let us not forget the following. First of all, the independent web reviewers' audience is by definition not the kind of audience that would gleefully listen to whatever the professional trend-following critics try to push into their heads, and it would be extremely naive to think that the trend-following part of the audience can be 'saved' or 'educated' through web reviewing. Personally, I have not the least hope of that; and if somebody respects the 'best-albums' lists made by professional critics, he/she will most probably just spit at our 'overrated / underrated' lists. In other words, OUR regular audience will probably be agreeing with us anyway, and that OTHER audience will never agree with us anyway. So what's the deal?
Second, and worse: many reviewers have developed such a strong alergy to the GCO that there is often a strong desire to put down anything that the GCO is applauding, and vice versa. This is understandable, but unforgivable; a reviewer must be free of all personal biases and be able to praise a great album, no matter how many times it has been praised before or how many times it has been overplayed on the radio. If such is the case, the 'lists' will most probably just be reflecting the author's overtly negative attitude towards Rolling Stone, but hardly anything else, and moreover, it is only one step away from radical self-deception.
Another common 'accused' can be the reviewers' colleagues through web reviewing. Since independent web reviewing is currently flourishing and the record review sites will probably soon be numbered in dozens, it is always more appropriate (and more convenient) now to compare your opinion to that of your colleagues and then draw some kind of 'collective average' indeed. This is, however, also accompanied by numerous problems, the biggest of which is - these guys are all so witty and so disgustingly independent (eeeeh, yuck) that their opinions hardly ever match. There are about 10 or 15 major reviewing sites now, but even if you only take the biggest ones (Mark Prindle's, Brian Burks', Music Junkies Anonymous, Wilson & Alroy, and your humble servant's), I'd be hard pressed to find something 'collectively overrated'. The few records that all of these dudes agree about are usually the ones that nobody ever suspects of being over/underrated (e. g. Live At Leeds is and will always be counted as one of the greatest live albums of all time, and It's Hard will always be counted as one of the boys' weakest moments; but what could you say about Tommy, for instance, based on all of these ratings? Not much...).
Finally, the last bet for your standard 'overrater/underrater' is the band's/artist's hardcore fans. While it is certainly not true that diehards' opinions always coincide, it is more true than false that their approach to a certain band/artist is usually more or less stable. Hardcore fans are drawn to a certain band through subjective reasons, and it's obvious that a certain band/artist will attract fans that share the same psychological features, particularly if the band/artist in question is not particularly eclectic. Thus, when you visit all kinds of message boards and forums, there is usually a relatively stable group of a handful of albums that are considered the band's 'peak' and a handful of albums that constitute the band's 'nadir' with everything else in between. Of course, this hierarchy is established by means of a strictly majoritary approach (there will always be Rolling Stone diehards considering Dirty Work among the band's finest efforts, for instance), but it is definitely not a fiction, and this is further proved by interactive review sites, where fans post their comments.
The best way to establish your own - more or less objective - opinion on over/underratedness, then, is to take into account both the view of the diehard and the GCO and compare them. When they coincide (i.e. both of the 'average' opinions are that the record is among the greatest of all time OR that the record represents the artist at his poorest), this creates a ready basis for over/underratedness. And mind you, the diehard's position will not always coincide with GCO. Example #1: according to the GCO, the Rolling Stones' Their Satanic Majesties' Request is an extremely poor album featuring the Stones hastily jumping on the psychedelic bandwagon and miserably failing. However, so far I haven't yet encountered a Stones diehard who'd speak poorly of the album - it rarely occupies a particularly special place in their hearts, but it's never really put down. Thus, Satanic automatically loses all hope of occupying its place in the 'Top 10 Underrated Records Of All Time' list (even if I still consider it to be the Stones' most underrated record). Example #2: A Passion Play is a cult object for most Jethro Tull diehards, but it is, and always was, panned to death by GCO, thus it can't be neither overrated nor underrated - both sides neutralize the other one's efforts.
Note, however, that I said this only creates a basis, that is, even if the GCO and the hardcore fans' opinion coincide totally, this does not yet mean by itself that the record/band, etc., has been overrated or underrated. In order to decide on that, we must consider the ensuing parameters.
II. SOME WAY. Okay, album so-and-so has been overrated. Or underrated. But HOW? It's always easy to assign some stupid number (within a list) and leave it at that. But you gotta realize that any kind of band, or any kind of rock or other musical album, whether good or bad, can always be viewed from different angles and under different perspectives, and before we start disagreeing with whoever we want to disagree with, be it the fans or fellow reviewers, we have to check our own foundations. We have to check ourselves, dammit!
First question in this respect that somehow evades anybody. All right, if album so-and-so is overrated, then WHY is it overrated? It is always simpler to simply state an unargumented fact than to explain something. And no list of over/underrated albums I've ever seen (including my own - so far) seems to bother about that: either their authors never ask themselves that question or they just think the answer to it is always so obvious it's not necessary to actually state it. WRONG.
Many people complain that Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is the most overrated album in the world. 'This is crap!' they shout. 'Look at what they say - it's experimental, it's melodic, it's revolutionary... it's all hogwash! I can name you a hundred records that were ten times as experimental, a thousand records that were ten times as melodic, a million records that were far more revolutionary! It's so obvious that this record is utter shit that I simply can't understand how anybody DARES to mumble about its brilliancy! Go figure!' And these same people never ask themselves the simple question: WHY? Sgt Pepper came in between Revolver and Magical Mystery Tour, two equally good (if not better) Beatles albums, and yet it's Pepper who gets all the fame. Okay, perhaps this is unjust, but there's gotta be a reason to that, right? Let us find the reason first, then, and only complain about the record being overrated after that. Perhaps the reason will be valid?
Perhaps it will! Sgt Pepper was greeted with such enthusiasm because it featured the world's most 'stereotypical' and 'exemplary' pop band smoothly combine rock'n'roll with all kinds of neat elements never before deemed appropriate for rock music. The concept, the printed - at least seemingly important - lyrics, the segues between songs, the experimental instrumentation, the orchestrations, the sound effects, everything. Yes, other bands had serious albums before, but simply put, nobody had as much of it as the Beatles put on one album, and at the time the Beatles made the great jump forward in actually making a record that was experimental and universally accessible at once, a record that could easily unite both the a) simple pop lovers, b) classical music lovers and c) psycho freaks, as long as the given representative of either of the three categories wasn't WAY too limited in his approach towards music. Thirty years on and later, it's easy to condemn Sgt Pepper as a feeble attempt at psychedelia, now that musical fashions have changed, but remember how many people were influenced by Sgt Pepper back in 1967, and these people weren't exclusively professional trend-following critics. Can any bias-free person in his or her right mind complain of the record really being that overrated, now that we singled out the reason? At max - a very little bit, because it is true that Pepper's historic significance has been dimmed somewhat through the years. But this still leaves us with an excellent, ideally balanced mix of 'accessibility' and 'experimentalism'; I would be hard pressed to come up with a band or an album that distributed the dosage in a better way.
In the end, of course, it all boils down to the paradigm you're using. Since I don't judge the albums according to their level of 'weirdness', for instance, I don't really care if Sgt Pepper is more or less 'experimental' than Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, for instance. So if somebody pegs the record as 'the trippiest album of all time', it's definitely overrated; but if it gets hailed as 'the album that perfectly ties together several of the most important and innovative musical elements of its era', this is an entirely different matter. Music in its pure essence is what really matters for me. Therefore, I can say that, for instance, the Who's Tommy is a record that 'lives up to the hype': yes, the fact that it was the first successful rock opera might have overshadowed its actual musical importance in the eyes of many, but that needn't diminish the purely musical achievements of Pete Townshend on that album in any way. On the other hand, Bob Dylan's Live 1966 is a record that doesn't at all live up to the hype. It has gobs of historical importance, for sure, and is thrilling on first listen, just to hear Bob being booed by the audience and playing against the audience in an audacious and dizzy statement of artistic freedom; but musically, what's on there? A very good live performance, marred by a very poor recording quality and a very uneven opening acoustic set, none of the songs from which surpass the studio originals. Nothing more.
Which brings us to the conclusion: records are usually overrated or underrated NOT due to musical reasons. A record often gets an unjustly high or low position because of extra-musical conditions. Good timing; a brilliant conceptual move; a successful 'emotional capture' of a certain group of people and later artifical extrapolation onto everybody else; initial oblivion and a later 'resurrection' with a lot of anti-hype; an all-star players' list, all of these factors which are only indirectly related to the quality of music itself can easily influence the GCO. On the other hand, such factors as a radical change of paradigm by an established artist, an intentional self-simplification of what was once was a 'complex' band, etc., also not related to music as such, can result in the artist being underrated.
The same reasons are appliable to being overrated/underrated by hardcore fans, although in this case, there is one more important reason. Normally, every band or artist's music is the result of the combination of the Musical Skeleton - basic laws of the melodic construction of a composition, which are more or less the same for everybody, or at least they should be the same - and of the Personal Image, i. e. the particular features of the band/artist in question which make his/their music different from everybody else's. These two parts have to be in perfect balance for the record to be particularly good; too much emphasis on the Musical Skeleton results in the record losing freshness, originality and uniqueness, while too much emphasis on Personal Image results in the music being original and extravagant, but unmemorable and - in most cases - unpleasant. Well, truth is that hardcore fans usually put too much accent on the "Personal Image" side, which is natural because this is the main reason they became hardcore fans of this band/artist and not another one - their psychology is totally compatible with and extremely favourable for the elements which constitute this band/artist's personality. Example: hardcore Jethro Tull fans love Jethro Tull not because they used to write strong, memorable tunes with perfectly constructed melodies, but because of Ian Anderson's mystic appearance, flute playing, radically convoluted lyrics and Elizabethan arrangements. Which is why, in my opinion, hardcore Tull fans overrate albums like Minstrel In The Gallery and A Passion Play (ultra-complex in every respect, but very poorly written from a purely musical sense) and neglect records like Too Old To Rock'n'Roll which have a far stronger Musical Skeleton but lack many of the features that make Jethro Tull such a distinguishable band.
I'm not saying, of course, that music exists in a vacuum and we have to weed out all the social and other factors when we discuss historically important records; nor am I saying that in reviewing and rating music we must rely exclusively upon the 'Musical Skeleton' and treat all the individual characteristics of the artist as purely secondary (not at all, not in the least). What I'm saying is that these are the main reasons that some albums tend to get overrated and some tend to get underrated, and the perfect solution of the problem - 'is this stuff overrated?' - would be to throw off all the 'secondary factors' and try and get to the core of the record.
III. SOME DEGREE. This one is going to be short: I just have to make a special warning for everybody, which is: Avoid exaggerations. Trying to determine the most overrated/underrated record of all time is as useless as it is to search for the one and only best album of all time, or the one and only best book of all time, whatever. It is true that some records are more overrated/underrated than others, because everybody builds up a rather rigid hierarchic system, even if it's only a subconscious one. We humans just love structuring everything, don't we? Oh we don't? Then why are all these damn reviewer and non-reviewer guys making lists all the time? If you haven't made at least one hierarchic list in your life, you're probably a pumpkin.
However, in this particular case I would be hard pressed to come up with a 'mathematical' criterion for determining the 'grade of overratedness' (man, I feel I'm going crazy already). And actually, this is not all that necessary.
In the appendix below I will list ten of my most obvious candidates from 1966-75 for 'being overrated' (in alphabetic order - no hierarchy here), but with absolutely no bad feelings at all; in fact, I dearly love at least half of these albums, and fully respect the other half. Why am I doing this? With the exclusive aim of demonstrating there's much more to these artists than these 'overrated' records - in some way, they have turned into rigid and conservative 'fetish albums' over the years, making 'classic rock' an even more petrified lump of biases and presuppositions than it already is. Don't let the anti-hype get you; these are all good, some even great records, that deserve recognition and a frequent appearance in your CD player, but don't turn them into sanctified icons. These albums live and these albums breathe, surrounded by tons of minor and major classics - integrate them within a bountiful and active collection, don't put them on a pedestal hiding beyond the clouds of ignorance... Er. Sorry.
Though this is not really related to the essay in question, I will also provide a second appendix, in which I will give my picks for 'Top 10 Underrated British Bands/Artists" - specially dedicated to American audiences. These bands have never hit it big in the States on a large scale, which eventually led to many of their records being unavailable and virtually unknown, and I sincerely beg everybody unacquainted with these bands to give them at least one first try - each of them is a little unique world in itself.
10 of Classic Rock's Most Overrated Albums (of the 1966-75 epoch)
The task is actually quite dangerous: it seems that on some of these records, I will have to take on the whole musical world (well, it will be an interesting challenge, anyway). But before we proceed, let me just put one significant disclaimer: most of the records described above, except for just a couple, I consider to be great, exciting, challenging records that often make it to my CD player without any regret. Sometimes these records are even the cream of a certain artist's work - for now, I don't imagine how the Beach Boys could possibly have topped Pet Sounds. It's just that the amount of worship that these albums receive do not seem justified to me, as there are other records much more, or at least equally, worthy of praise, and yet they don't really seem to get it.
1. Beach Boys: Pet Sounds
Usually considered to be: the first significant art-rock album, one of the most beautiful and breathtaking records in the history of pop music, as innovative and groundbreaking as possible, the first fully 'introspective' and 'confessional' record lyrics-wise, etc., etc.
What's so bad about it? Like I said in the intro, this is indeed the peak of the Beach Boys, and from a historical perspective, its importance can hardly be underrated. But it is way too stylistically narrow to be really suitable for all kinds of audiences: too many of the songs sound and feel the same, setting the same mood and relying on the same harmonies. Very, very roughly speaking, Pet Sounds is just one or two songs (in a very broad understanding of the term) remade over and over and over, and can thus in no way compete with contemporary Beatles product. Taken individually, each of the songs, except for the rather unnecessary instrumentals, is a gem; as an ensemble, it can easily weary out the listener in no time.
Why is it overrated? Anti-hype. Plain and simple. Note that the album went out kinda unnoticed in the Sixties, and I wouldn't want to attribute this entirely to the fact that American audiences were narrow-minded and way too enchanted with the Beatles' experimentation to notice the experimentation of their concurrents. That would be really denigrating the audiences. Pet Sounds' being overrated is a natural result of the anti-Pepper backlash: it is the obvious choice for you if you need something to oppose Pepper as a 'you know, that way, way much better album', as the competition between the Beatles and the Beach Boys is well-documented and almost legendary.
What should it really be taken for? Everything it really is, except for the cliched prefix 'best pop album of all time'. Great pop songs. Terrific harmonies. Wonderful emotions and sincerity. It really should belong in everybody's collection.
What's overlooked? Can't really say here, as my Beach Boys collection is far from definite.
2. Bob Dylan: Blood On The Tracks
Usually considered to be: the most powerful statement of "broken romance" by any major (or minor) artist, an immaculate collection of inventive folkish melodies paired with some of Dylan's most hard-hitting lyrics ever. A major, unsurpassed emotional masterpiece.
What's so bad about it? 'Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts'. Notice how the critics ALWAYS bypass that lengthy (and plain uninteresting) 'storyline'? That's because they don't have anything good to say about it and prefer not to notice its existence at all.All right, this is a minor factor, after all. The problem is: how many of these immaculate melodies and unsurpassed lyrics are actually better than the ones used on Blonde On Blonde? None. Even worse, Blood is a formulaic record, with most of the songs falling in the same category and built according to the same principle (and the title of the song keeps ending the chorus! 'Tangled Up In Blue'! 'Simple Twist Of Fate'! 'Shelter From The Storm'! Think about it!). Finally, Dylan is far more interesting when he's enigmatic than when he's wearing his heart on a sleeve. One could almost accuse him of ripping off Neil Young when Neil Young was a Dylan rip-offer himself in the first place. Again, not that the record is bad - it's excellent; but placing it in the upper league seems rather hasty.
Why is it overrated? Huh. Dylan came back! People had already written him off in 1975, after that long stretch of mediocre or 'horrible' (yeah, right) country albums, and he suddenly comes back, and what's more - pulls off his most straightforward and easily understandable record since at least The Times They Are A-Changin'. The world has stopped! Seriously, now, Blood On The Tracks is simply way more accessible for the general public than Dylan's 'weird' period; accessible, sincere, well-written and easy to identify with, especially if you've just lost your faithful companion. But my deep belief is that people who prefer this record to the 1965-66 period are simply lazy enough to take an effort and dig a little deeper.
What should it really be taken for? A very solid, enjoyable singer-songwriter effort that certainly comes from the depths of the heart of one of the world's most powerful, imaginative and important singer-songwriters; a compromise gesture towards the kind of public that's not exactly prepared to enjoy some of his more complicated and less immediately likeable musical/poetic imagery.
What's overlooked? Dylan's 'country' period, IMHO, is severely underrated - albums like Selfportrait and New Morning take on a whole new life as soon as you get rid of certain cliches concerning Bob. He's a free person, you know.
3. Creedence Clearwater Revival: Willy And The Poorboys
Usually considered to be: a quintessential record of the band, capturing it in full flight and presenting good old Southern Rock in its full glory, the type of good old Southern Rock that everyone likes - not just your average Lynyrd Skynyrd or something. In other words, the Southern equivalent of Sgt Pepper.
Why is it overrated? Well, for these reasons exactly. A Southern equivalent of Sgt Pepper, even if it is a Southern equivalent of Sgt Pepper, simply can't be considered to be one of the greatest records of all time. I guess it also has a lot to do with 'Fortunate Son' - why so many people hate 'Freebird' or 'Workin' For MCA' but adore this ambitious slab of arrogance is way beyond me; maybe I should have really been born in Alabama.
What should it really be taken for? A nice, pleasant record with a solid share of great songs ('Down On The Corner', 'It Came Out Of The Sky', 'Cotton Fields', 'Midnight Special', etc.); certainly not CCR's peak, as it was their third record in one year (1969) and this resulted in monotonous instrumentals like 'Side O' The Road' or 'Poorboy Shuffle', or in overlong jamming on 'Feelin' Blue', etc.
What's overlooked? Well, the CCR catalog is really given its due by fans, I must say. Perhaps Pendulum is slightly underrated... but not really. People usually do like this record. I suppose CCR's general historical estimate is pretty fair.
4. Derek & The Dominos: Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs
Usually considered to be: a testament to two great blues heroes - Eric Clapton and Duane Allman - at their peak; more than that, one of the freshest, sincerest and most breathtaking collection of, well, love songs in existence. An incredible technical and emotional showcase.
Why is it overrated? Well, I suppose it has something to do with the 'supergroup' factor: Eric+Duane = the critics' bone of contention. Considering that both were indeed at their peak in 1970, that's no surprise. It also has a lot to do with the title track, of course, a timeless masterpiece; unfortunately, the beauty of the title track has managed to implant itself even on the filler. Which is plentiful: all right, even if people are ready to kill me because I do not worship generic ballads like 'I Am Yours' and 'Thorn Tree In The Garden' or stale rockers like 'Anyday', they still wouldn't be able to explain me why these particular numbers are preferrable to any more or less similar tracks on Eric's Seventies' output.
What should it really be taken for? One should always look towards the best. Undoubtedly the best thing about the album is Duane's and Eric's interplay when they spur on each other. Therefore, look closer in the direction of this record's more bluesy numbers, like 'Key To The Highway' and 'Tell The Truth', as well as those tracks that have the most fire and speed, like 'Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad' or the title track. It all balances in a rather unstable manner, depending on whether the band really 'gets it on' at a certain point or not. All in all, this is indeed a great album for studying lead guitar work, and as a single record it would be as great as everybody says it is. But I completely disagree with rating this album as Eric's 'emotional' peak.
What's overlooked? For starters, be sure to get the Dominos' Live At The Fillmore, an album whose energy level chews and spits out Layla itself, Duane or no Duane. And do not even try to tell me how you love this record but despise everything Clapton ever did since. 'Let It Grow', ever heard that one? Every bit as good and climactic as 'Layla' itself.
5. Jimi Hendrix: Electric Ladyland
Usually considered to be: A complete and absolute Hendrixopaedia, the man at the top of his power, playing unimaginably complex and witty guitar jams and converting the listener to a psychedelic world of his own making. Kinda like Another Green World, only he does for the electric guitar what Eno did later for the synthesizers.
Why is it overrated? Well, just because it is indeed such a mastodontic album. A double one, and it has a bit of everything that the other albums have and some things that they don't; not to mention that Jimi's guitar playing had even improved in 1968 (since 1967) and so it's a popular location of praise for all sorts of guitar technicians. But over all this fuss people prefer to overlook the following things: (a) there's nothing revolutionary about the album, it simply consolidates the things Jimi had already put on record a year before; (b) the melodies are generally less memorable than the ones of Are You Experienced and Axis; (c) the excessive jamming, including the 14-minute length of 'Voodoo Chile' and some of the more boring moments on the 'rainy day' suite, can be really tough to handle, so the record is simply far less accessible than the previous two. And an 'epochal' album should certainly be easily accessible.
What should it really be taken for? Hendrixopaedia - sure, but not for the uninitiated fan. This is a serious course in guitar playing and should never be your real starting point with Jimi.
What's overlooked? In Jimi's case - nothing.
6. Kinks: Something Else By The Kinks
Usually considered to be: An artistic pinnacle for the Kinks, the archetypal 'Britpop' album, depicting almost every side of the British society, establishing Britpop as one of the strongest genres in popular music. Sometimes treated on par with Village Green Preservation Society, but often put higher.
Why is it overrated? As usual: this is such a strong 'socio-philosophical' statement, with deep, insightful lyrics and brilliant character impersonation, that the relative weakness of a large part of the album's melodies is overlooked. I'm sorry, but an album with songs like 'No Return' or 'Situation Vacant' simply can't be counted as the Kinks' greatest achievement, let alone one of the classic albums of all time. The Kinks' ensuing two albums easily beat it out on the account of melodies while presenting equally strong socio-philosophical statements. It's just that this one was the first, and hey, it came out in 1967. I gotta admit it, though, the album's importance has only been stated in retrospect, but the same can be said about the ensuing two albums as well.
What should it really be taken for? An excellent collection of emotionally resonant Britpop tunes, with a large percent of filler thrown in for good measure. An album that can be easy to identify with on the psychological level, but which doesn't represent the master (Ray Davies) at the top of his game.
What's overlooked? Currently - nothing as well; the Kinks have been really paid their dues by critics and newly arising fans alike. It's actually hard to overrate the Kinks' Sixties' catalog, but in this particular case, the impossible thing has been done.
7. Led Zeppelin: Physical Graffiti
Usually considered to be: If Electric Ladyland was Hendrixopaedia, then this is the Zeppelinopaedia: a sprawling double album that somehow presents a resume of everything that made Led Zeppelin the great band that it was. From heavy metal to acoustic stuff to funk and blues, it's got it all, and it all works.
Why is it overrated? Because it actually doesn't work. Zeppelin's 'limited songwriting' skills were hardly calling for a double album, and in any case, they had pretty much said everything they wanted to say on their previous work, from I to IV. Trying to substitute 'gigantic proportions' for actual songwriting quality is a very cheap trick, and while the best material on here is certainly gorgeous ('Kashmir'), there's too many songs that have nothing in them to guarantee the highest ratings possible.
What should it really be taken for? An inadequate, poorly balanced record that still shows signs of greatness but almost never represents the true essence of Led Zeppelin. The seasoned fan will see a certain depth here, reached through a long experience, that escapes the common listener; but if you're the common listener, better set your gaze on something more idiosyncratic and immediately compelling. Led Zep I, for instance...
What's overlooked? In the Led Zep catalog? Can I put 'Stairway To Heaven' in here?
8. Pink Floyd: Dark Side Of The Moon
Usually considered to be: One of the most 'thrilling' records of all time - an immaculately produced tale of desperation and madness that combines accessible melodies with wild experimentation and tackles some of the most important problems of mankind in one small package.
Why is it overrated? Because it came out in the right place and at the right time. At a time, namely, when the simpler rock audiences were beginning to get fed up with overcomplicated progressive rock and were just waiting for something that would combine a decent level of artsiness with a decent level of accessibility. Add to this the topics of madness, depression, and disillusionment, so eminently actual in the early Seventies, and the package is ready. A great package indeed, but a wee bit more concentration on the melodic side of things would have been nice.
What should it really be taken for? An excellent 'experimental' album whose packaging, production, arrangements and philosophical message are the 'main course' and the melodies are somewhat secondary. A 'sonic experience', if you wish, with a slight handful of avantgarde tricks thrown in for good measure.
What's overlooked? This album plus Wish You Were Here and The Wall managed to overshadow everything else in the Floyd catalog, which is a damn shame. Damn the hype. Simply put, if these three albums have converted you, you just have to go deeper into the Floyd backlog. I won't say anything else.
9. Rolling Stones: Exile On Main St.
Usually considered to be: the Stones Encyclopaedia this time, a double album featuring the world's greatest rock'n'roll band do what they do best - explore all styles of 'rootsy' music on a rich, wonderfully embroidered canvas.
Why is it overrated? People just like their things 'big', you know. This is a BIG record, and since none of the songs are bad and many are great, its BIGNESS becomes twice as effective. However, big as it is, Exile definitely lacks the ominous, exciting edge that characterized the Stones' previous three records. There's no shiver-sending classic like 'Sympathy For The Devil' or 'Gimme Shelter' or 'Sister Morphine' on here. Yes, it's an excellent record, but it lacks the Stones' epochal essence. It's nice to think of it as a 'fitting conclusion' to the Stones' grandiose musical journey, but just because it fits into some weirdass theory doesn't mean it has to be revered as one of the greatest albums of all time.
What should it really be taken for? It is proof immaculate - proof immaculate that nobody like the Stones among British bands could master American roots rock with so much sincerity and authenticity, on one side, and put their own unmistakable print on it at the same time. But if you ask me, it's records like Exile that are responsible for the 'roots-rock' label constantly hung on the Stones. The Stones were much more than simple roots-rock, which is proved, for instance on albums like...
What's overlooked? ...Goat's Head Soup and Their Satanic Majesties' Request. Although yeah, I already acknowledged that at least the latter is mainly respected by Stones fans. But if you're not a radical Stones fan, you probably don't even know about these artsy excesses, right?
10. Who: Who's Next
Usually considered to be: one of rock music's pinnacles, the album that established one of rock's best ever bands as arena-rock heroes in the best sense of the world - all-out rockin', emotional, sincere and talented/professional at the same time.
Why is it overrated? Again, for musical reasons. It's grandiose and bombastic, for sure, and no rock band ever did bombast better than the 'Oo. But there are too few songs. There are too many long songs - and some of them, like 'Song Is Over', make some Who fans (me included) blush with their straightforwardness. There's no humour (bar 'My Wife', which really doesn't fit in with the rest of the songs, and the bizarre 'Goin' Mobile' which can hardly be called 'humorous'). Basically, the main flaw with the record is that it actually represents bits and pieces left over from Townshend's crumbled Lifehouse project - and while it's still amazing that the salvaged results are of such high quality, I find the follow-up to this album far more cohesive and emotionally resonant (not to mention far more masterfully arranged and produced).
What should it really be taken for? All of the above, plus the songs mostly kick ass. But not the quintessential Who album as they tell you - you need to take into account the "extra-religious" factors that accompanied the making of the record.
What's overlooked? If you look for the 'quintessential' studio Who album, go no further than the magnificent The Who Sell Out. On the minus side, it doesn't rock that hard, but it's funnier, more diverse and inventive. And Quadrophenia, while still as controversial an album as could be, simply beats out Who's Next by its very scope; it's very much in the same style, if you can tolerate the fact that the guitars are somewhat 'diluted' by synths and horns, but it's more concise, compact and generally - yes, you heard it - less pretentious, i.e. more adequate.
10 UK Bands/Artists Severely Underrated in the US (of the 1966-75 epoch)
Note that this is also just a few 'samples' rather than a definitive list. These are all artists that either had no success at all in the States (like Family, for instance), or - more often - had one or two big hit singles but never got to expand on that and is therefore only known to general audiences through that (or those) big hit singles sometimes played on the radio. Note also that some of these bands are also drastically underrated in the UK itself, but overall, they manage to garner more popularity in their homeland than... you know.I initially wanted to try and create a similar list of '10 US bands/artists severely underrated in Europe', but curiously enough, found out I couldn't do that, because most of the US underrated bands I've managed to think of were... were actually underrated in the States as well. Bands like Spirit, for instance. Go figure.
1. 10cc. I do admit that the band was kitschy by its very nature, but hey, so was Frank Zappa. On the plus side, it is responsible for some of the most brilliant pop hooks of the Seventies, and their lyrics and 'character impersonations' are something to die for: rock satire at its most biting and deeply-penetrating. Add to this an impeccable approach to production, as in their most well-known song, the hit single 'I'm Not In Love', and you got yourself a real treat. The problem is, they have been too often mixed with the multiple nameless glam and power pop "hit single" bands of their epoch and dismissed. Don't YOU do that.
2. Family. Arguably the best progressive rock band that never made the big time, although my definition of 'prog rock' probably doesn't quite fit in with the genre stylistics of this band. For fans of Traffic and Jethro Tull, Family is a must - it is somewhat of a link between these two bands, but completely idiosyncratic. This is something like 'experimental roots rock', with traditional genres successfully crossed with medieval, classical and jazz motives, a great, groovy and fantastic melting pot. They were inconsistent, but their best records (such as Music In A Doll's House and Family Entertainment) are a total gas. You'll have to get used to their lead singer, though.
3. The Hollies. If there's such a category as 'pure pop', then the Hollies are its finest representatives. A few of their singles hit the big time in the States in the Sixties and early Seventies, but have long since dissipated. No pop music lover collection is complete without at least a greatest hits compilation; and albums like Butterfly easily demonstrate that the band was fully competent even in the psychedelic era. In its own 'lightweight' way, of course, but hey, who the hell banned lightweight music from existence?
4. Argent. The Zombies have already been given their due, but not Argent - basically the Zombies in the progressive era. They were patchy, but they were very, very deserving. One of the best art-rock bands of the early Seventies, although they probably only occupy second place after Procol Harum... who are pretty underrated themselves, by the way.
5. Nazareth. Another heavy metal band, from Scotland this time. Drop your Aerosmith into the gutter. Dan McCafferty has a voice most heavy metal singers can only dream of, and Manny Charlton has these awesome guitar tones... nah, not on 'Love Hurts', which is good, but doesn't represent the band at its best. Mainly, it's their debut self-titled album I'm speaking of: a terrific brand of 'Scot-metal' that they, unfortunately, relinquished soon afterwards in favour of a more conventional approach to rock'n'roll. But even in these years, there's plenty of gutsy, ballsy material in their catalog that's worth far more than endless empty slots in the All Music Guide discography.
6. Renaissance. The band that's responsible for some of the most gorgeous synthesis of rock/classical/pop/folk in a colourful musical paradise. They can get boring at times, but their vocal melodies can hardly be beat anyway, and it amazes me how a prog rock band of such high stature is now mostly limited to a cult following. They sure don't deserve a worse fate than Yes or ELP. Check out the early period, at least - Prologue and Ashes Are Burning are a real treat.
7. Roxy Music. These guys might sometimes be mistaken for 'slightly experimental glitter-rockers', but that's a common misunderstanding. They basically ushered in a whole new layer of pop culture, paving the road for the entire musical scene of the New Wave (and, to a certain extent, the later) period. Riding on the three pillars of Glam, Futurism and Decadence, they predicted and/or tamed goth, electronica, disco, dance-pop, you name it, and they did this by means of enjoyable, accessible melodies and a completely unique sound. And they're virtually banned in the States. Isn't that a shame? Drop everything you've got and go grab For Your Pleasure, Stranded or (if you're afraid of spookiness) Siren now.
8. Roy Wood. Just see my full introduction page - it's impossible to summarize the man in three sentences. So I'll contend myself with this: if you haven't heard Boulders yet, or at least a couple of those mind-blowing Move albums, you haven't lived.
9. T. Rex/Tyrannosaurus Rex. Marc Bolan wasn't just the 'prototypical' glam hero: he was an intelligent and skilful rocker with enough self-irony and artistic taste to rise above the superficial trappings of glam rock (which he singlehandedly invented, by the way). His only US hit, 'Bang A Gong', is more or less typical of his glam period, but that same glam period also covered far more ground - if you think there can't be anything more to this guy, check out Tanx and have enough courage to admit your mistake. Also, do not forget the early Tyrannosaurus Rex period, when the young hippiesque Marc Bolan made music that I could only describe as 'the closest thing to a real-life Tolkien soundtrack'. Check out the Unicorn masterpiece to know what I mean.
10. Ten Years After. These are only known in the States through the Woodstock version of 'I'm Goin' Home', and while it's more or less typical for the band, the number alone won't let you feel all the excellency of TYA as one of the finest blues-rock specimen of late Sixties/early Seventies Britain. Albums like A Space In Time demonstrate that Alvin Lee could easily (okay, not easily, but still...) write songs on the level of Britain's best songwriters, and albums like Undead will make your head go round. Remember - Alvin might 'just' have been the fastest guitar player on the British scene at the time, but he always played fast guitar for overall enjoyment, not for self-indulgent reasons.
That's about everything I wanted to say so far. As usual, you can mail me any kind of comments, whether it be on the 'theoretical' part of the essay or on the lists in the appendices. You can mail your own lists of anything over-/underrated, if you wish, but make sure you give at least some kind of argumentation. And remember - if something is overrated or underrated, that doesn't mean you necessarily have to hate/love this thing. None of the albums I've singled out on here receive the highest rating on my site, but none go under 10/15, and most go over 12/15...
Sergey Zhilkin comments: (03.01.2001)
Well, my list will be very subjective this time because I have only 231 albums and, as you might have understood, your list doesn't fully present in my collection. So here I go with my subjective list! Note: all the albums listed belowed aren't bad - I just don't understand why so many people praise them to heaven.
1. Jesus Christ Superstar. Yes, it's nice hybrid of rock music and opera with intertaining idea but, man, do they suppose I haven't read Bible or Bulgakov's 'Master and Margarita'? Besides, some places in opera don't correspond to the actual story. Sir Andrew invented them himself.2. In rock by Deep Purple. I really don't like these pointless jammmmmmmms and guitarwork on 'Child in time'. Sorry, I'm just a person of such type. 3. Dark side of the moon by Pink Floyd. Here are some terrific songs ('Time', 'Money', 'Brain damage') but their quantity is too little to make this album best record Pink Floyd ever produced. Besides, the other half of record is pure crap. 4. Band on the run by Paul McCartney. All songs are good here (though, unfortunately, not connected with each other) but why so many people call it 'the best music for everyone'? 5. The wall by Pink Floyd. I never bash album for crappy songs (only if they are put with good ones) until a band decides to make a double album by filling the record with bad songs composed for minutes. Unfortunately, we face it here. 6. John Lennon/Plastic Ono band by John Lennon. Well, it's surely very sincere album but what if this sincerity doesn't touch my heart? Or is it all because I didn't have such problems that John suffered from in his childhood? In fact, I don't want them to start... 7. Outside by Bowie/Eno. Often greeted as last concept album ever produced. But why should I care for concept if I don't like the music much? 8. Flowers in the dirt by Paul McCartney. Again, critics praise it to heaven and some even say that it's better than Band on the run. See my comment on Band on the run in this letter. 9. Exile on Main st. by Rolling Stones. They didn't need double album and that's for sure. Some of these songs are familiar to each other so it's getting very easy to get lost in such sea of music. No revolution, no breakthrough, just old good rock'n'roll. 10. A night at the opera by Queen. This one is very strange for me because I always forget the middle part of the album. It's very dull for me, though, the bookmarks of Opera are terrific.
Hey! I won't stop here. Now I want to make a list of most overrated songs.
1.'Yesterday' by Paul McCartney. I really hate this one. Sometimes people call it the formula of heart but how can one formula fit all people, I wonder.To me the lyrics are banal and the music is boring. Many people say that this melody is simple and beautiful. What can I say here? Try 'My sweet lord' - this one is really simple and beautiful.2.'Show must go on' by Queen. I'm already sick and tired of this manner of singing (low voice in the beginning and sudden breakthrough on line 'Show must go o-o-o-o-on'). 3.'Hotel California' by Eagles. The studio original really sucks so better get the concert version with 'wall-of-sound'. As for the song, it's boring and dull. Though, I never liked ballads very much. 4.'The candle in the wind' by Elton John. Two facts about me: 1) I don't like ballads and 2) I don't like Diana. This song is typical ballad with lyrics about poor Diana...Yuck! I was more upset by even Linda McCartney's death than Diana's. 5.'Imagine'. I like this piano playing but IMHO John had written better songs in his life ('I'm losing you', 'A day in a life' and 'Give me some truth'). 6.'We will rock you' by Queen. OK, George you finally persuaded me that it's just a case of Fredie toying with his audience. Nice example that shows how a crowd can be rulled. 7.'We're the champions' by Queen. Again the chorus that the crowd can easily sing:'WE-E-E-E-E A-A-A-A-A-A THE CHA-A-AMPIONZ'... 8.'Yellow submarine' by John Lennon/Paul McCartney. This one is from the same category as 'We will rock you' and 'Champions'. Just a shout-out (though a pretty one). 9.'Stairway to heaven' by Led Zep. I can't dig the first part with it's dumb guitar chords. Though the last part with electric guitar is terrific. 10.'Oops! I did it again' by B.Spears. Sorry, I was running out of ideas so she came to help me.
That's all, folks!PS. George, how about page of 10 most underrated albums? It would be cool!
Lyolya Svidrigajlova comments: (18.03.2001)
Creedence Clearwater Revival - Cosmo's factory. Arguments? Just a bunch of hits, with four covers, at least three of which suck (emotionless old dumb classics with nothing done to them - ah, where is Suzie Q?); terrible lack of passion or emotion of any kind - apart from "Long as I...", there is nearly nothing personal. Quadriple platinum, sleek arrangements, yum yum yum, a chocolate pie with cream. Period.
The Doors - The Soft Parade. That was maybe supposed to sound horrible - Doors doing dance music. But it doesn't. At least, to my ear. It seems so light... well, unlike all they did. As my husband once said: "Like the Doors? Take The Soft Parade. That's a circus." A very good circus, must add.
From pop-music - ABBA, Waterloo. Urm... the only ABBA album I really enjoyed. That's funny, silly and sounds as if they drank a lot and had a very good time... with a terrible hangover. Well... it has a feeling of freshness while everything they did after it sounds... inanimate. Enough said.
<Dudefile@aol.com> comments: (17.03.2001)
Well, I've got to hand it to you George, this is one interesting part of your page! I've got a few suggestions and comments though. First, I'd like to suggest adding a few albums to your list, such as Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica, Patti Smith's Horses, The Sex Pistols Never Mind the Bollocks ..., Van Morrison's Astral Weeks (I know you haven't reviewed this one yet, but I list it anyway because, as stated on the Creative Noise page, the "songs" are way too similar and formless to warrent the sort of hysterical praise they've recieved), and maybe the Velvet Underground's debut. I'd also like to comment on one of the albums you did put on here with which I disagree, namely Pet Sounds. Of course I'm not saying that Pet Sounds isn't somewhat overrated, but then again so is any other album called "the greatest of all time". Your reasoning describing why this is so overrated was particularly worrisome. For instance, how can one say that anti-hype is solely responsible for this record's status when the first to call it "greatest of all time" were the Beatles themselves? Similarly, I disagree with the remark that all the songs on this record sound alike. I understand that you dislike the similar styles in which all of these are arranged, but I honestly feel that what counts in this record is not necessarily its diversity so much as its sonic texture (one reason why it attracts such worship from classical music and jazz fans like Mark Weigel who have a particular sensitivity to texture). If you want to appreciate this yourself, try listening to Pet Sounds with headphones in a dark room while paying close attention to the ways in which instrumental parts lock together. I guarantee you'll be delighted by what you hear.
George Starostin replies:
I agree that the Pistols could have easily made it onto this list. I don't think the same about Beefheart and Patti Smith, though - sure, they are "critical darlings", but so far I'm not really sure about how many people actually believe the hype. (That said, I do like both of these albums, especially Horses, but I'd never dream of putting them into any Top 100 list or anything).As for Pet Sounds - well, not too many albums have actually been called 'greatest of all time'. Dark Side, maybe, and Sgt Pepper - and the recent flashback against Pepper has been so huge that it's not really overrated any more. Actually, my scepticism about PS lies mainly in the fact that so many people around seem to praise this record as if out of an intentional wish to make a counteraction to Pepper. As if they just feel a desperate need to find the album that will beat out the Beatles, and this is their most obvious choice. Well... I didn't say Pet Sounds wasn't a great album, anyway. I adore its textures as well.
Overrated/underrated... you know, that`s all TOO much subjeKctive!1 Firstly i want to say some words to Sergey Zhilkin: i see, man, when you released a list of your overrated songs, you wanted to shock, to confuse the online melomans with your phrases like `the lyrics in Yesterday are banal and the music is boring` and so on. But, i think, you just overlistened to these famous creations & thus overfed with them. And that`s only your own trouble.`The man is the measure of all things`,- said Protagor. And he was right, you know. Keep the measure. Such proclamations (like yours) awake the people`s brains & make `em think about the well-known things over & over again, but... that`s all. But to include Britney into the list of most rock overrated songs! Wow, that`s so hilarious, man! i like it!
2And by the way, adding some material to this discussion, i want to name this unbelievably funny recording: Das Palast Orchestra with lead vocals by Max Raabe. Those popular & overrated & knowtorious hits (`We Will Rock You`, `Super Trouper`, `I`m Blue-da-ba-dee-da-ba-da`,`OOPS I Did It Again`, of course) were played &sung just like it could be played &sung in 20s or 30s of the XX century by the jazz orchestra. Sure you`ve heard some of it already; if not, get it & have a half-hour of wild laughter, which, you know, replaces the cup of sour-cream. Good for health! Overrate me, underrate me , but don`t laugh at me! - i can hear these songs`authors screaming!
3Here`s another list of those poor things. There`s no any use to write the list of overrated songs & albums. We all know `em. Maybe, some of underrated groups, which, unfortunately, are quite unknown for the most part of people (i mean rock classix).
- Can- Procol Harum - The Velvet Underground - Gryphon - Brian Eno - Et Cetera - Third Ear Band - King Crimson, no doubt. Most of prog lovers adore `Schizoid Man` & the 1st KC, but all the rest their deeds are the usual points of cruel discusions. - etc.
No use to continue. For, as i said in the beginning, that`s all so subjeKctively and oh so individually! There`s a whole lotta people who REALLY love those shit like rap crap, Cannibal Corpse, Britney, N`Sync & the like. Every man is the measure of all things on Earth & Heaven, so if there is any point at what all human beings can get agreement? Nope. (So funny word - nope. "Say the word & you`ll be free/ Say the word & be like me/ Take a soap & take a rope/ And the only word is NOPE/ It`s so sad, it`s so bad/ It`s the word NOPE").Sorry, i finish. Different people will NEVER come to the one common opinion, especially in the sphere of art. The result is nothing, the movement is everything! Long live the old man Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel! The discussions on different points must be continued!
Your list is an excellent list of the albums people go on and on about their greatness, yet weakness is definately there. The only problem that I have with your list would have to be the inclusion of Who's Next. It is overrated. In fact, it is very overrated. However, you yourself gave the album a 14 out of 15 and I just can't see how an album with such a stunning grade could make the list of the 10 most overrated albums. No other serious complaints though. My list would be very similar.
1.) Physical Graffiti - Led Zeppelin - They had to make this a double. I love disc 1, in fact this would be a 12-14 album in my opinion if disc 2 wasn't released. Disc two though, is Led Zeppelin's worst moment. They should have stuck to being a blues band because they never seemed to top their first album or the very bluesy BBC sessions.
2.) The Wall - Pink Floyd - Yet another one of my favorite bands selling out with an album that had too much filler. They could have made this one a single album taking 45 minutes and produced one of their best albums, but when songs like 'Vera', 'Is there anybody out there' and 'Bring the Boys Back Home' start seeping in, the album quality goes down.
3.) Pet Sounds - Beach Boys - The Beach Boys were one of those bands (like Led Zeppelin) who had a ton of great songs, yet they couldn't seem to produce that one album full of them. All of them had some filler and Pet Sounds is no exception. It does have its gems which are found throughout the album, but the 3rd best album of all time (VH1s list) is absurd. Its a great album, but it doesn't deserve all of the hype attatched.
4.) Exile on Main Street - Rolling Stones - Don't you find it strange that three of the first four albums on this list are doubles. I have my reasons. The perfect double album hasn't been done yet and it will never be done (The Beatles and Quadrophenia are the two closest to perfect for me). The problem - like most double albums, the filler somehow finds away to overshadow the gems like 'Tumbling Dice'.
5 - So - Peter Gabriel - The experimentation isn't present on this album and pop songs are the dominant force here. I don't hate Gabriel for it, almost every artist has sold out at least once. The songs are much better than typical 80's pop, but what happened to the experimentation from Security, or the lyrics from III. It's called the peak of his career on Amazon, but it's really a valley.
6.) Rumours - Fleetwood Mac - This album reminds me of Who's Next in that it consists of 40 minutes of radio hits. It is a great album, but with its best seller status and overexposure, it doesn't live up to it's name. No bad songs can be found, but nothing is mindblowing and only 3 or 4 of the songs are great, the rest is just good.
7.) Led Zeppelin 2 - Led Zeppelin - Another great album that is considered to be one of the top 10 or 20 records made in the past 40 years. But once again, it is just a great album. It is actually the first metal album with the exception of two songs, 'Thank You' and 'Ramble On'. John Bonham does a boring drum solo which scars side two. The only excellent songs are 'Whole Lotta Love' and 'What is and What Should Never Be'.
8.) Bridge Over Troubled Water - Simon and Garfunkel - Of the eleven songs on the album, six are on the Greatest Hits collection. The remaining five songs are nothing impressive. The tensions between the two didn't have the results of the tensions between the Beatles, because this album is no Abbey Road. Doesn't even come close. Get it for the gems though, such as the title track, 'The Boxer', and 'Cecelia'.
9.) Blood on the Tracks - Bob Dylan - I just don't see what the fans think is so spectacular about this album. Don't get me wrong, it's a great album, but is it really better than Highway 61 or Blonde on Blonde. There is no way that I could answer that question with a yes. It's one of Dylan's minor gems, that's it.
10.) Electric Ladyland - Jimi Hendrix - The double albums come back to continue to dominate this list. The jams and filler are a large part of this album, making it a mixture between Phyiscal Graffiti and Wheels of Fire (the live disc). Hendrix's playing is astonishing as usual, but the songs just aren't that great when compared to Are You Experienced or Axis: Bold as Love.
All of these albums are worth owning, but they aren't worth being worshipped.
Having an 'opinion' on how other people regard an album starts a pendulum of appreciation, since our subjectivism is so easily affected by anticipation. The very discussion of over-/under-rated albums is what keeps the pendulum going. This is, of course, a good thing, can you imagine the process going static ? The nearest to this we experience at the moment is probably when an album gets such a universal recognition that criticism is not taken seriously. Examples of this is Live at Leeds, The Beatles and In the court of the Crimson King. The pendulum itself is rather sensitive, out of c:a 5.5 billion individuals on earth, a very small fraction are educated, diligent, incisive and ambitious enough to achieve the work of a Starostin. You are in a position where you can share your views and many people listen to you with great interest and feedback (I could scream for all I'm worth: "Lark's tongue in aspic is overrated !" and my friends and associates would go "Clarke, who ?!"). With a website as influential as yours, your under-/over-rated lists are out of date as soon as you load them up - the bigger the authority, the smaller the authority when it comes to discussing over-/under-rated albums See what I mean ? I've surely changed my opinion, and therefore the world average opinion, after reading this essay. I think your system of record-/overall-ratings works very well, because after all; the greater the peaks the lower the valley (Goat's head soup might have been hailed as the masterpiece I think it is, had it only been released anonymously). Your system allows a band to be rated fairly according to their standard and to be put into a context of musico-historical evaluation at the same time. Keep up the brilliant work, the only negative thing that could justly be said of your pages is that they're SO addictive. I have to restrict myself to an hour/day from now on, otherwise I won't get anything done....Cheers.
Oh, by the way, here's a little list of bands that, in my opinion, are neglected. It is possible (and very probable) that they have some kind of cult following somewhere, but I haven't seen, or heard, any indications thereof:
The Albion Band: The best English folk-rock band, if you ask me. Formed by Ashley Hutchings (of Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span) it is a big piece - I think there were ten of them at their peak - that managed to come up with an absolutely idiosyncratic mixture of early music (featuring Philip Picket - now musical director of the Shakespeare Globe, London - on assorted woodwind), English folk (fiddles and concertina) with a powerhouse of two drummers and Ashley on bass. All their pre-80:s (and many of their post-80:s, but save that for later) albums are fab, but check up 'The prospect before us' and 'Rise up like the sun'.
The Enid: Great British instrumental prog here. Arrived late (mid-70:s) but cannot be said to be derivative of any early band; their style is completely original. They've got two guitarists and high-pitched guitar harmonies is indeed a stylistic fingerprint. Truly symphonic, not just in sound, but also in structure, perhaps the only band ever to really master large-scale forms. It is bombastic and romantic (in the musicological meaning of the term but, as a result of this, in the general meaning as well).
Human League: Don't kill me, you indoctrinated anti-80s fundamentalists. Some of the English 80s music is just brilliant and should fit in very well under the 'Unpretentious Popsters' category of this page. 'Dare' is a good album to start with, if you don't hear strong melodies on this album you have to press 'on' on your hi-fi.
Herman's Hermits: Now, this band IS underrated. There are so many connoisseurs of 60s music that don't even give them a chance. They were part of the true and original British invasion. Yes, they may have their share of 'stinkers' but tell me, which British band put out truly wonderful ALBUMS without filler and covers in 1965 ? Just pick out the really good songs and enjoy them. Why are they not on your page, George ?
Kebnekajse: I have to mention this Swedish progressive band, even if their albums may be hard to get hold of (I don't know, there might be a re-mastered CD catalog out by now?). Impressing and captivating prog with a strong national flavour (Scandinavian folk elements) that unfortunately refused to pen English lyrics. This had devastating effects on their sales of course, but nevertheless, they continued to release albums all through the seventies. The best are 'Resa mot okant mal' (71), 'II' (73) and 'III' (75).
Amazing Blondel: English prog band that seems to suffer - as does Gryphon and, to some extent, Renaissance - from falling in between the chairs of folk and prog. Great instrumentalists here, and the songs are within the more 'authentic' folk and early music idioms. All their albums are underrated, of course, since a lot of people don't seem to know the band in the first place. The albums after 1975 may, in my opinion, stay underrated until the end of time.
Chris Squire: Fish out of water, just one album of this Titan of prog. Probably overrated by people like myself or underrated (at the best) by the rest of the world. Brilliant melodies here. George, pleeeease review this album, I'd love to hear your opinion on it. Think about it: strong melodies (I guarantee that), great crispy sound, vaguely YES-ish, but NO ANDERSON VOICE ! What more could you ask for. In my opinion the only attempt at progressive pop that actually worked. 'Hold out your hand' is quite possibly the best song ever written (and now it's overrated, because I said that, I take it back!!!).
George, I think it's high time you admitted the truth: you WERE born in Alabama, dawg. It's just that simple. I could detect the drawl in your writing a mile away. Not to mention the appetite for cawnbread, colluhd greens, and Mama's frahd chicken, with some ultra-sweetened Ahce tea ta warsh it all down. Mmmm. . . collard greens. . . Dammit, Ah'm hungry now. And Ah'm stuck talking in 'Bama-speak. It's all yer fault, George, you slah devil. :)
Now, your list as to these albums being overrated and underrated and so on is quite interesting to me. Your explanation for why these albums are overrated makes sense, from a critical point of view. But most music listeners aren't critics, and I think chances are, most people other than critics like these albums because they just sound GOOD to them. For example, I don't like Dark Side of the Moon because I think it's particularly groundbreaking, or because I grew up with it. I just like it because it sounds better than almost any other album I've ever heard. Overrated? Not to me.
But, of course, it's all subjective. No one has a monopoly on quality assessment of popular music. Tell that to some of the other reviewers in the WRC--I'm sure they'll be THRILLED to hear it. Or not, perhaps.
Err, well, I don't know, I just go by what seems to be the general concensus amongst most people. Again, it has a lot to do with personal opinion [doesn't it all boil down to that?] and sadly we are all different. I thought, for example, of Ringo Starr that the Bad Boy album is under-rated and the Goodnight Vienna album is over-rated. Goodnigth Vienna makes its way onto a few Amazon.com Ringo's best top ten lists and Bad Boy has a avergae customer review of 2.0/5.0 [that was until I reviewed it and bought it up to 2.3] so obviously most people don't like it. Goodnight Vienna has a rating of 4.0/5.0 if I remember correctly. I'd give it 3.5/5.0. Maybe I'm wrong, I don't know. Amazon.com is a good place to go to see what heaps of people think. But when I say ti matters upon who you are, we all look for different things in music. You look for listenability, Resonance, originality, adequacy, diversity. However, I care not one bit for resonance, actually I get pissed off about it's importance and have decided to launch a prog rock career [I'd do disco but prog rock is easier to make on Windows sound recorder] about hwo I think Resonanace is unimportant. Ditto for Adequacy. I don't know what you mean by listenability either. I think diversity is very important. I perhaps, if I ever become a critic, would consider originality to give credit to those who were. But things I'd include to make five Ideals are -Vibrance, one of the most undervalued facets of pop and rock -Musicianship, Some people may not be very interesting but they sure know how to play and -Other, to acount for things like 'I don't like the lyrics', 'or whatever else belongs here'That is: Vibrance ?/5 Originality ?/5 Performance ?/5 Diversity ?/5 Other ?/5
That is how I would judge music.Anyway, I haven't heard all that much music, but of the albums I have the ones that are, IMO, under-rated, are: Bad Boy - Ringo Starr Sentimental Journey - Ringo Starr Leather Jackets - Elton John Thom Bell Sessions - Elton John Empty Sky - Elton John Breaking Hearts - Elton John [he's had so many albums it's impossible to list only one or two] Help! - Beatles Please Please me - Beatles Recycler - ZZ Top Izitso - Cat Stevens Back To Earth - Cat Stevens Streetlife Serenade - Billy Joel
Anything that I have that I feel is over-rated?
Songs from the west coast - Elton JohnMadman Across the water - Elton John Stranger - Billy Joel A hard days night - Beatles [in comparrison to some of their other albums of the same time]