The A+ List – 1978

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Van Halen erupted on the scene in ’78 with Eddie’s unmatched guitar pyrotechnics and David Lee Roth’s tongue-in-cheek (and elsewhere) macho posturing. Pretty much a coin flip on whether to select this one or “Dance the Night Away,” but the campy “I been to the edge” monologue makes the difference for me.

The A+ List – 1977

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“Alison,” Elvis Costello. Declan MacManus delivered a debut album that couldn’t be ignored; pairing pub rock licks with punk rock attitude and the wordplay/songwriting skills of a learned veteran, not a rookie that had just quit his day job. On “Alison,” he stumbles across an old flame that is drowning in unsalvageable sorrow

10 Essential Songs From the Pen of Gerry Goffin

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He is most famously known for his songwriting partnership with Carole King (the couple were married from 1959 to 1968). As a lyricist, Goffin was known for his acute writing from a female perspective and as King has noted, his ability to put “big ideas into simple words.”

1976 – A+ List

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“Anarchy in the U.K.,” The Sex Pistols. In November of ’76, a sea change occurred in the U.K. music scene as Johnny Rotten introduced himself as an anti-Christ/anarchist. While Rotten was declaring his goal to destroy passersby, the multi-tracked guitar of Steve Jones roared in violent agreement with the sentiment.

Casey Kasem – The Potentate of Pathos

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If Kasem had been simply spinning platters and telling chart positions, he would have been imminently replaceable. The bits of trivia, the stories about the artists and the songs, the dramatic build to the #1 hit of the week was all part of an ongoing narrative – part mystery, part discovery, always leading to the next week’s chapter in the ongoing saga of pop music history.

1975 – A+ List

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“Ballroom Blitz,” Sweet. Mixing bubblegum pop with Townshend power chords, songwriters Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman wrote a series of U.K. hits for Sweet, including “Little Willie,” “Wig-Wam Bam,” and the excitingly punctuated “Block Buster!” “Ballroom Blitz” is Sweet at their irresistible best and was a major international hit – it went to #2 in the U.K. in 1973 and #3 in the U.S. in 1975.

The A+ List – 1974

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John Prine penned “Angel” for his extraordinary 1971 debut album. Raitt gave this despondent tale of a woman living a passionless life an even more touching treatment. Always remember, common side effects of Zoloft include sleepiness, nervousness, insomnia, dizziness, nausea, skin rash, headache, diarrhea, upset stomach, loss of appetite, abnormal ejaculation, dry mouth, and weight loss.

1973 – The A+ List

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“Love Train,” The O’Jays. Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, the kings of the Philly soul sound, wrote and produced this #1 hit. The O’Jays formed in the late 1950s, but had no success until 1972, when Gamble and Huff produced “Back Stabbers” for the group. The O’Jays smartly stayed with G&H for the rest of the decade. For the love of money, if nothing else.

Steve Crawford's Top 25 Songs Through May 31st, 2014

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This list heavy on alt-country No Depression Americana, but that’s just the way I roll these days. The #1 slot is by the band with the best album of the year so far (and the #3 slot comes from the second best album of the year). I have no idea if Parker Millsap is being sincere or ironic on “Truck Stop Gospel,” but in either case, he’s made me a believer. In Parker Millsap.

Tennessee City Can Change Its Name to Rocky Top

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The city council of Lake City has yet to formally vote on the name change, but that is most likely a mere formality. “Rocky Top,” a tune written in ten minutes to celebrate an idyllic, fictional Tennessee lifestyle will soon morph into a manufactured, t-shirt selling tourist trap. I bet Hooter’s is already looking for property.

1972 – The A+ List

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The common theme of ‘70s rock criticism was “this decade is horrendous, everything great happened in the ‘60s,” which is a sentiment that proves that The Beatles were more effective as a hangover than they were as an intoxication. 1972 was actually an embarrassment of riches and this listing could easily be doubled. So, let’s groove on back to the Nixon era without being nattering nabobs of negativity.

“Looking for Johnny”, Johnny Thunders Documentary, Reviewed

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Like most documentaries, this is a labor of love and director Garcia does a fine job at highlighting the key events in Thunders’ life. However, the limited ability he had for licensing is a shortcoming of the film – most of the music used in the film is clamorous stage footage that doesn’t adequately display Thunders’ skill as a songwriter

The Old 97’s “Most Messed Up” Reviewed

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Rambunctious and sloppy and chaotic and hysterical with songs that you can both sing with and scream along to. If you’ve forgotten how thrilling traditional rock ‘n’ roll can be, this is one hell of a reminder. Play it loud. Knock back a few shots. Piss off your uptight neighbors.

1971: The A+ List

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1971 was a great year for what we now call classic rock – Rod Stewart, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and The Who all released indispensable albums. Boiling down 1971 to 20 A+ tracks was no easy feat – my apologies to the Chi-Lites and the Stylistics, among others.

1970 – The A+ List

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This record gets the Best Supporting Cast award for 1970. Motown legends Holland/Dozier/Holland wrote the tune under a lawsuit avoiding pseudonym and The Funk Brothers played on the track. Ray Parker, Jr., who was still attending classes at Detroit’s Northwestern High School, played lead guitar.

Bob Wills Day, Turkey, Texas, April 25th, 2014

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Every year during the last weekend of April, the small West Texas community of Turkey, Texas celebrates the legacy of their most famous citizen with Bob Wills Day, as a huge fan of both Bob Wills and general weirdness, I’ve wanted to attend this event for years

Different Songs With The Same Name, Part II

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As attentive readers know, the theme of this piece is great songs by different artists that share the same title. In the first article on this subject, we learned to “Walk Like a Man” with The Four Season and Bruce Springsteen (but forgot Grand Funk), we observed “Love Is All Around” from the Troggs and Joan Jett, and we were infatuated with “Starry Eyes” by The Records and Roky Erickson.

Fourteen Fine Tunes from 2014

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Rachael Price, the great granddaughter of Seventh Day Adventist leader George McCready Price, is a superb vocalist and this song has a ‘70s classic pop structure. This is a band that displays retro influences without smelling like a pet rock.

Music of the 1940’s – The Essential List

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There were some major setbacks for the music industry in the 1940s. Shellac, the material used for 78 RPMs before vinyl, was needed for World War II military purposes. Also, there were two strikes by the musician’s union during the ‘40s that halted the production of new records.

The A+ List – Drive-By Truckers Edition

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English Oceans, the latest release by the Drive-By Truckers, debuted at #16 on the Billboard album charts last week, marking their highest position ever While not their best album, this showing does reflect that through the combination of their touring, endless self-promotion, and longevity, they have managed to establish a sizable fan base – one that will automatically purchase any product as soon as it’s released

Bobby Patterson/The Relatives, Kessler Theater, Dallas, Friday, March 7th, 2014, Reviewed

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Patterson was fantastic – telling inside jokes (“I recorded this in Muscle Shoals – Percy Sledge was supposed to sing it but he got too drunk”), incorporating disc jockey raps, off color humor, and dancing in the crowd. Patterson plays hard hitting, dance oriented R&B and strapped on a guitar at the end of the set to unleash a barrage of fiery blues licks. Patterson didn’t bring the house down, he set it on fire

The Ramones – Their 100 Greatest Songs

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The Ramones boiled down everything they loved about rock ‘n’ roll to its essence – this is a band that had major fights about whether they could put a guitar solo on a song. The basic punk rock chord structures are now ubiquitous in modern rock, but this was music that was deemed both offensive and dangerous

A+ List – 90s Rap

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I’ve decided to jump into the game with my own somewhat random A+ list, the first being focused on ‘90s rap. Two things to remember. One, this is not an attempt at an all-inclusive list. Two, money talks, but it don’t sign and dance and it don’t walk.

De La Soul – The Essential List

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On Valentine’s Day weekend, De La Soul made the large majority of their catalogue (their first six studio albums and some rarities/greatest hits packages) available for free download. I, of course, jumped on it like a junkie seizing a clean needle

Iris DeMent, Kessler Theater, Saturday, February 15th, 2014, Reviewed

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There is a timeless element to DeMent, given her universal themes and the bedrock simplicity of her musical accompaniment. Beyond those aspects, it is her bravery – her emotional honesty and intelligence and passion – that makes DeMent a major artist. She is genuine and moving and a truly gifted songwriter.

Steve Fromholz Remembered

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Fromholz, described by one long time friend as a “traveling party” and a “cornucopia of fun,” developed sincere connections with intimate audiences and he will not be soon forgotten by serious Texas music fans. Give “The Texas Trilogy” if you haven’t heard it.