100 Records Blog
In the spirit of (1) saving up money for my annual pilgrimage to Chicago and (2) digging in my own collection, I'm taking a half year off from buying records and am going through the records I have (and in many cases have purchased but not listened to yet). To share the experience I'm writing capsule reviews every other day of a record - which works out to 100 records by mid-July. Where available I've provided a link to audio clips (just click the ;Audio clip' text). I'll update this frequently so keep checking back for new reviews and records! -Keith
40. Wolfcop Original Soundtrack – Shooting Guns
Something spoke to me about this record when I came across it in the shop and I’m glad it did: this is an interesting rock instrumental soundtrack that delves into some atmospheric electronics, moogy synths and even some funk (for rock, anyway) grooves. Apparently this is a real movie? I’m not exactly up on movies but based on the soundtrack alone this has to be some quality B-movie stuff, be it actual vintage or a new movie that nods to the old style of flicks. The record starts with some rock grooves then morphs into more electronic stuff – and both aspects are interesting. Definitely not for everybody, but a rather engaging listen.
Acquired: Sonic Boom, Seattle WA Audio
39. Kiss – Dressed to Kill
I cued this up on a recent road trip for the first listen in a while, and even though I've listened to this album 50+ times the following things stood out: (1) many of the songs are just okay and a few are stupid ('Anything for my baby' really grates on me since it's essentially a chorus repeated the entire song) and it's far from their best record. (2) The overlooked dinosaur -crusher 'She' is on this record, my absolute favorite Kiss riff and one of their heaviest. (3) 'Rock and Roll All Nite' is a near-perfect song that not only deserves its place in the rock canon but jumps out at you and punches you in the face at the end of side two, given the lackluster content of much of the album.
Acquired: Diabolical Records, Salt Lake City UT Audio
38. AC/DC - Flick of the switch
If there’s such a thing as an AC/DC purist record, this is probably it. The band is clearly in their audio prime here – the guitars rip through with the right level of distortion (more than on records that came both before and after) and the production is excellent. All the songs are good and there are no weak links… but no song is great and nothing went on to be any kind of hit for the band, so nearly every track here remains under the radar.
Acquired: Sound Warehouse, Houston TX Audio
37. John Coltrane – The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings
When I think of jazz I think of John Coltrane, even though the level of musicianship he exhibits is a few levels above the limit of my understanding. For a long period of time I didn’t like Coltrane stuff at all, but beyond all else Coltrane is ultra-listenable, especially for students of the form. This multi-CD set covers all the takes and versions of the tracks so to say you have a ‘favorite’ disc or track is random more than anything. That said, the versions of ‘India’ are my favorites and Disc 4 for whatever reason is also my favorite. I just went on a long trip and these discs kept my brain the ‘right level of occupied’ on my pre-dawn portions of my drive. Yes, this is a CD set but man!
Acquired: Poo Bah Records, Pasadena CA Audio
36. Ray Barretto – Acid
A Latin Jazz classic, and an enjoyable listen from beginning to end. The record is a perfect blend of incendiary instrumentals, smoother instrumentals and vocal-tinged tracks that grab your attention in a way even the illest instrumentals don’t. ‘A Deeper Shade of Soul’ and ‘Espiritu Libre’ are the standouts to my ear, but seriously the whole record itself is a standout.
Acquired: Dusty Groove, Chicago Audio
35. Piero Umiliani – To-day’s Sound
As good an entry point into the goodness of Piero Umiliani, this record showcases his diversity across multiple genres and types of tracks. As is the case with Italian library-style records, some songs are cheesy but it’s a good cheese (a phrase I’m pretty sure I stole from Calamity Jade). My favorite tracks are ‘Green Valley’, a slow mellow groove, ‘To-Day’s Sound’, a faster track with a surf feel, the funky ‘Truck Driver’ and the even funkier sure shot ‘Lady Magnolia’. This record is now ubiquitous digitally so you should be able to check out all these tracks quite easily and see if Umiliani is right for you (hint: it probably is).
Acquired: Dusty Groove, Chicago Audio
34. Iron Maiden – Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
I could write about any and all Iron Maiden releases through 1990 but chose this one because (1) it’s legitimately my favorite album by them and (2) it gets acknowledged as an essential album but not necessarily praised the way its predecessors are in terms of classic Maiden canon. It’s worth multiple listens though – for one the album comes full circle in terms of the beginning and the end, making it feel like a concept album (even though it’s really not). The opener ‘Moonchild’, second track ‘Infinite Dreams’ and lead single ‘Can I play with Madness’ set the tone for an album with no weak points and lesser-known gems in the Maiden portfolio (I’m also a huge fan of the title track and ‘The Clairvoyant’).
Acquired: Factory Records, Costa Mesa CA Audio
33. Tito Puente – Top Percussion
A stone latin jazz classic! I’m not exactly ranking the records on this list or anything (since there are so many genres represented) but if you could only buy say three records on this list (and hey, thanks for trusting me with your money) this is one of the three. Essential percussion record with enough track-to-track variance to make the entire thing a great listen, though the cleanest theme is percussion workouts (Conga Alegre, Hot timbales etc). As much as I enjoy those I’m a bigger fan of tracks like Obaricoso – a mid-tempo groove – and Night Ritual – a multi-art excursion with a simple but great minimalist groove in the first few minutes.
Acquired: Dusty Groove, Chicago Audio
32. Donald Byrd - Chant
Byrd is in nice form here and delivers a groovy, jazzy record very much in step with its era. If you see Blue Note and 1961 on a record it’s a really smart idea to get it and this doesn’t disappoint – I’m not a jazz expert but the main influence seems to be bop, though there are other influences at work. This is a smooth, relaxing record that may not command the attention of non-aficionado listeners, but anyone with an ear should enjoy this record, even if it’s just something to throw on while you do whatever thing commands most of your attention. A solid attention to any record and/or jazz collection.
Acquired: Beautiful World Syndicate, Philadelphia Audio
31. James Brown – Sex Machine today
The Godfather rips a funk set at his mustachioed best… and if James has a moustache on the cover the record is a funk monster. Critics take away from this era of records, painting James as a waning star clutching at the remains of his stardom – and though that was true in the US, James’s opulatiry globally was still at its peak in this era. The weakest song on the record is an updated take on ‘I feel Good’ but it’s still good and funky, and while the new version of ‘Sex Machine’ is good, the originals on the record still shine and bring the funk goods you need. Perhaps not Brown’s best but that still makes it better than damn near anything else.
Acquired: Turntable Lab, NYC Audio
30. Metal Massacre V
Just one volume of the essential Metal Blade compilation series that launched many heavy metal careers and served as the high point of many careers that never launched. This volume features early tracks by Overkill, fates Warning and Hellhammer (the band Celtic Frost was before they were Celtic Frost) in terms of notable bands…. and bands such as Attacker, Final Warning and Future Tense as well. All tracks are interesting – especially if you’re a scholar of heavy metal history – but not all the tracks are actually good. Worth it if you’re that type of scholar and collector / not worth it if you’re anything else, really.
Acquired: Josey Records, Dallas Audio
29. Judas Priest – British Steel
This is my favorite Priest album, it’s perfect intersection of early and mid-period Priest when they were good and rockin’ without being too heavy (though I like Priest from damn near any era, really). This captures the band at their hookiest, with standards like ‘Living After Midnight’ and ‘Breaking the Law’, rockers like ‘Grinder’ and ‘Metal Gods’ and even early attempts at anthems (‘United’) before Priest went all-in for smash hits in the 80s. I usually dislike remastered albums but the remastered version of this is quite good as well and sounds great on any stereo.
Acquired: Rhino Records, Claremont Audio
28. Gatecreeper – Sonoran Deprivation
Whoa how did I miss this band? A modern take on two of the most relevant death metal acts (Entombed and Obituary), produced by Kurt Ballou (of Converge and ‘the guy who produced the Nails records’ fame), released in October 2016 that could have been written in 1992. Well, the riffs anyway, the vocals sound very 2016 but here’s what you get with this – a massive, wall of heavy guitars that sound like a cross between a death metal concert and an actual military battle. If you don’t like your music really heavy (in the vein of the Nails) then don’t check this out, but if that sort of thing is your bag, baby then this record fits the bill.
Acquired: online Audio
27. Ron English – Fish Feet
I think in the record collecting game we as collectors tend to overuse the word ‘banger’ or ‘gem’ since in many cases we mean ‘good to very good record with something redeeming about it’. In this case, I’ll stick with the latter – this is a pretty good record with a few redeeming tracks and an overall funky, jazzy vibe. The title track is probably the ‘banger’ of the record, a winding jazz-funk guitar opusthat clocks in over 8 minutes and highlights some really good jazz-funk drumming that stays right there in the pocket with a minimal, Meters-esque beat. Other tracks are nice enough (I’m personally not a fan of the track ‘You Make me Feel Brand New’ so covers of it don’t do much for me) but they work as pleasant background music without really jumping out of the speakers to command my attention away from whatever the thing I’m doing is. Worthwhile for jazz aficionados, a likely pass for others.
Acquired: Fingerprints, Long Beach Audio
26. Deep Purple – Stormbringer
Almost completely ignored record from Deep Purple’s discography during the wildly unpopular David Coverdale era – this is the period where the band replaced Ian Gilliam (the singer you know from all their hits) with David Coverdale, then leaned heavily enough in a funk direction to make Ritchie Blackmore quit and form his own band (Rainbow). That setup makes it unlikely that this is my favorite Deep Purple record but the reasons hardcore fans hate it are why I love it – the record is FUNKY (vintage 1974) and has a great blues feel as well. The title track lays a groove with an ultra-catchy riff and the record alternates between blues rock, ballads and funk rock throughout. Of note is the B-side track ‘Gypsy’, which I dig. An absolute gem waiting for you in the $3 bin.
Acquired: Rhino Records, Claremont Audio
25. Criminale, Volume 4 (Violenza)
I got the first Criminale compilation a few years back and wasn’t really feeling it – then again I hadn’t dipped in to the library genre of music at all. This record – very much tapping the same vein of the first three compilations – is an excellent compilation of funky, groovy and spooky library tracks featuring compositions by the most noted contributors of the genre. Every track is a sure shot, and there are beats breaks and excellent grooves all over the thing.
Acquired: Dusty Groove Audio
24. Larry Nozero – TIME
There’s mellow and then there’s MELLOW. This record, an initial rarity through Strata Records has been reissued on 180 Proof, is a mix of a few jazzed-out funk tracks (Tune for L.N. being my favorite) and breezy jazz excursions without any drums. Those tracks without drums work in certain times of my life but for me all of those times involve sleep or the process of getting ready to do so. The tracks are super-chill and demonstrate nice musicianship but they’re mostly just good for relaxing or unwinding.
Acquired: Online Audio
23. Celtic Frost – Morbid Tales
If, like me, you sometimes have a hard time connecting the current forms of extreme metal to the 1977-83 era (and further back to Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer etc) this record is a pure missing link that makes your go “ohhhhhhhh”. The debut from Black Metal pioneers (formed from their previous band Hellhammer) Celtic Frost proves a useful connection between the present and the past… and more importantly, it’s a great record. It has the raw energy and speed of many of the best punk records and comes off as “raw” without sounding crappy, as is the case with some early metal (sorry, Venom) and punk.
Acquired: Discogs Audio
22. S.O.U.L. – Can you Feel It
An absolute monster of a soul/funk record with some wound out jazz tendencies, the original is highly sought after (for good reason) and represses don’t stay in bins for long. Hell, I might buy it every time I see it in a bin just on principle! The record sounds great in terms of the recording, as you would expect from a soul record made in 1972. I’m not kidding when I say every song is good, though the title track and the slow soul torch-jam ‘To Mend a Broken Heart’ seriously catch my ear when I listen through.
Acquired: Mono Records, LA Audio
21. Redbone – Redbone
A dollar bin gem that’s an enjoyable listen throughout but is known for the excellent monster smash ‘Come and Get Your Love’ and lightly known for the equally excellent and bittersweet ‘Clouds in my Sunshine’. Like a lot of records from this era, the recording sounds great (of course, it was released in 1973) and as mentioned is easy to find given the prevalence of its hit single coupled with the fact that nothing else on the record really sounds like said hit single. It’s interesting to hear the band explore their music through the album and sums up why I love albums so much – it says a lot about range of emotion when you can excel at songs with such diametrically opposed moods as the two I mention (and the others in between).
Acquired: Zulu Records, Vancouver Audio
20. Angel Witch – Angel Witch
Like Diamond Head ‘Lighting to the Nations’ this is an influential record from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal period that influenced every thrash band whether they realize it or not. Iron Maiden, Saxon and Def Leppard are the known bands from this wave, though Judas Priest could probably be part of it as well depending on your definition. Dozens of heavier bands like Angel Witch, Diamond Head and Blitzkrieg are mostly forgotten but albums like this deserve attention. The sound on these records is part fast, aggressive and very heavy for the time, part ‘hair metal’ at least in terms of sound, with catchy riffs and high-pitched vocals the general flavor (excepting Venom). Standouts on this record are the title track and the closer ‘Angel of Death’ (not the Slayer song but still pretty great).
Acquired: online (Amazon) Audio
19. Incredible Bongo Band – Bongo Rock
If you’re reading this, you probably own this record already as this album spawned the ultimate b-boy anthems ‘Apache’ and ‘Bongo Rock’ as well as aficionado tracks ‘In a Gadda da Vida’, ‘Pipeline’ and ‘Last Bongo in Belgium’ (the drum foundation for ‘Looking down the Barrel of a Gun’ by the Beastie Boys. Because I’ve listened to those songs so much I favor ‘Okey Dokey’, a ridiculous stank-funk jam straight out of a cop flick. BUY THIS RECORD
Acquired: Fingerprints, Long Beach CA Audio
18. David Byrne – Rei Momo
An interesting excursion by David Byrne into world music and percussive rhythms, which he did quite frequently in the post-prime era of the Talking Heads. The record is pretty much what you think it is, world music with David Byrne-style vocals on top straight off a Talking Heads album. His wordplay is particularly striking on a few songs and despite my best intentions the track ‘Independence Day’ is stuck in my head like all the best hooks in pop music.
17. Diamond Head – Lightning to the Nations
Whoa, a Metallica cover band how cool! Actually of course it’s the other way around, this record is a sort of ‘Velvet Underground LP of heavy metal’ as its grooves influenced tons of heavy bands (primarily thrash) that followed, most notably Metallica (they have covered three songs from this album!). The record is excellent on its own, not just for the songs you know if you’re a Metallica fan but because this record was and is widely slept on yet its influence continues to resonate 35 years after its release. Much like the first time you heard an original tune sampled in rap and thought to yourself ‘wait someone else wrote this awesome riff?’, listening to this takes the lid off Metallica’s creative process around the classic first three albums.
16. Sheila E / Pete Escovedo / Tito Puente – Latina Familia
The names alone should be enough to let you know this record is a percussion monster, featuring three giants of percussion, playing together… and the record does not disappoint. Strong latin jazz with massive percussion breakdowns (which I probably didn’t need to tell you), this platter bombs you with percussive fury at a high intensity, letting up very little throughout (to great effect, the slow songs are equally incredible). This record is an absolute bargain at the price (it should be under $10) and might find its way onto your favorites list.
Acquired: Beautiful World Syndicate, Philly PA Audio
15. Church of Misery – Volume 1
The most important thing about Church of Misery: they are a doom metal band (think Black Sabbath’s heavy cuts) whose every song is about serial killers. If that sentence interests you, read on: this is apparently their first record – previously unreleased but given a fresh mix in 2010 and released on vinyl. Being their first (or prior-to-first album) the band doesn’t make the usual connection to serial killers in their song titles but the tracks are everything that’s right about doom metal – big, groovy mammoth riffs played slowly for vibing or rocking out. This sort of thing is my bag, baby.
Acquired: Jackpot Records, Portland Audio
14. Wilbur ‘Bad’ Bascomb – Upright Bass Riffs for DJs
Including this more as a curiosity because it’s not a record you’d really sit down and listen to – it’s nothing but ‘Bad’ Bascomb playing upright bass – no other instruments, no anything. However, those of you who make your own music and perhaps produce music based on samples might want to dig this up – Tuff City put out a series of LPs aimed at “DJs”, though the audience clearly is hip-hop producers (there’s an excellent one with horns on it as well). Again, not an album to listen to but rather an album to use for sampling… if that’s your thing.
Acquired: Penny Lane Records, Upland CA (No audio on line)
13. Bobby Byrd – I Need Help
A relentlessly smokin’ ‘live’ set from another member of the James Brown stable, though the record really plays out more like a soul revue show. As with a typical soul revue show, there is a balance between soulful, mid-tempo tracks, slow ballads and pure funk scorchers. I prefer the scorchers, and ‘I Need Help’ is a typical James Brown burner and another track that’s so hypnotic and dope you’re almost surprised it ends. Additional tracks I really dig are ‘I’m not to blame’, a slow, horn-driven track that rises throughout and ‘Hang ups we don’t need’, a stuttering funk call to arms. The record is more soul than funk, but if James Brown is your thing you need this one.
Acquired: Reckless Records, Chicago Audio
12. BadBadNotGood and Ghostface Killah – Sour Soul
Hip-hop over live instruments! I’m partial to hip hop played with an actual band (that’s what my band Big Pimp Jones was for 10 years before we went instrumental) and this record is right up my alley. The title track is freaking ridiculous – a rim shot beat plus a nasty picked riff, plus rhyme flows = the kind of track you want to just slink around to. The other standout for me is ‘Raygun’, a duet with MF Doom that switches into a spy-style instrumental for the last part of the track. That’s said the whole album is solid front to back, by this point you know what you're going to get with a Ghostface Killah record and his style fits perfectly with a band playing soulful tracks and a nice addition to anyone’s hip-hop LP collection.
Acquired: online Audio clips
11. Def Leppard – On Through the Night
The very reason my 13-year old self disliked this record (but loved High n’ Dry and Pyromania) is the reason the current version of me loves it – it’s Def Leppard before the pop glossiness of the latter two releases. This is Def Leppard in their protoplasmic form, you can hear the places they were going and the future of the band, they just weren’t there quite yet. Nice harmonies in places, but in general the record is much more raw and fast-tempo without the slick pop hooks. ‘Wasted’ is great, but the most interesting song to me is ‘When the Walls Came tumbling down’, a track that shows some Iron Maiden tendencies that sounds like no other track in their discography.
Acquired: Crossroads Record Co-op, Portland Audio
10. The Other Side – Behind the Shack
The third album ever from Desco Records (the funk label that led to Soul Fire and Daptone), this helped the ‘modern raw funk’ movement along its path. The record is chock full of raw, funky instrumentals that sound like they came from James Brown session outtakes in the early 1970s – creating a vibe that sounds equally at home on a club dancefloor and through your headphones as you study. The music is pure groove and naturally unobtrusive but funky enough to snap you out of whatever you’re doing to get down. Worth checking out for the music and for the genesis period of a musical template that would lead to the Dap-Kings and Daptone family.
Acquired: Direct from Desco Audio clips
9. Living Colour – Stain
Living Colour’s third album (and final album of their first run), this album goes largely ignored as most people remember the ubiquitous smash ‘Cult of Personality’ form their first album and perhaps ‘Type’ from the second. The band changed their lineup a bit and vented their frustrations on this record, a satisfying and diverse record with tracks equally beautiful (Nothingness), furious (Auslander and Postman) and socially demanding (Go Away, Bi). The band found a nice groove on this album, but not many people stayed around for the ride. Absolutely worth a listen for guitar rock fans.
Acquired: Tower Records, Nashville Audio clips
8. New York Trouble / Electric Progression (KPM)
Unreleased material from the KPM vaults that just saw the light of day recently, this is a two-on-one album featuring excellent library session work. Electric Progression is an interesting listen (especially for library junkies) but New York Trouble is more accessible and funkier, even though most of the music is bare-bones bass and drums. If breaks are what you’re after this record – especially the New York trouble side – delivery the goods.
Acquired: Dusty Groove, Chicago Audio clips
7. Iron Maiden – Iron Maiden
Fast and punky first effort from Iron Maiden, released in 1980. The first of two albums with singer Paul Di’Anno, it’s a fascinating listen because (1) the songs are good, (2) the sound is raw and sounds great loud, (3) you can hear the future, more sophisticated direction of the band in the longer tracks, and (4) Di’Anno isn’t a particularly good singer (he sounds like Alice Cooper). Even though you can hear the future of the band this record sounds the least like other Maiden records and has standout tracks ‘Prowler’ and ‘Running Free’.
Acquired: Factory Records, Costa Mesa CA Audio clips
6. Khemmis – Hunted
High on many heavy metal critics’ ‘best of 2016' lists, this record serves up super-heavy doom metal (slow-tempo power guitars that owe a debt to early Sabbath for those outside the genre) with varying vocal styles. The predominant style is a clear signing style reminiscent of 70s rock bands, with some death metal ‘cookie monster’ style vocals thrown in to mix things up. This record somehow manages to be very heavy without being particularly offensive to non-metal believers. I don’t know how much I’d enjoy sitting around attentively listening to this but it’s excellent music to write to and (in my case) organize your comic and record collection to.
Acquired: mail order Audio clips
5. The Git Down! (Soul City Records)
If you’re the kind of person who loves the taste of funk 45s but doesn’t want to plunk down lots of dollars for them this is a nice compilation to have in the collection. If I was a DJ I’d make a point to own this, damn nearMy favorites are ‘Do it, Do it’, a soul/funk breakdown with a super-nice break, ‘Shake That Thing’ by Wynfield Parker, a killer upbeat mid-tempo soul joint and ‘Noise with the Boys’ by Al White and the Hi-Liters (only because the intro break is so good and sloppy).
Acquired: Fingerprints Records, Long Beach CA Audio clips
4. The In Sound from Scoctopus Records
This record isn’t worth much but it’s one of my favorite ‘digging’ finds; I came across this double LP compilation of lounge, jazz, funk and library music from Italy in the bargain bin and had that whole ‘slowly getting more and more excited the more I looked at the LP’ vibe. Credited artists include Sandro Brugnolini, Amedeo Tommasi and Alessandro Alessandroni. Every track sounds great, the whole thing is a beast of a record (library beast anyway). It came out in 1997 (so it’s now 20 years old!) and cost me $3, but that $3 turned into a favorite in my collection. The jewel of the release is a special remix done for the LP of ‘Games’ by Pasquale Castiglione and Paolo Casa, and if you’re in to this genre of music this record is a bargain at its normal price.
Acquired: Josey Records, Dallas TXAudio clips
3. Budgie – Impeckable
Groovy rock by a band known as one of the first ‘heavy metal’ bands out there (they were a huge influence on early metal bands and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal). This record is from 1978 and showcases some really nice grooves and riffs. Many tracks sound ‘pure 1978 rock’ but some proto-heavy ideas are on here, the kind of ideas that were to be repeated dozens of times as heavy music itself evolved. The songs I keep coming back to are slow track ‘Don’t Go Away’, the multi-faceted groove ‘Don’t Dilute the Water’ and ‘Pyramids’, which has a faster tempo and multiple riffs.
Acquired: Puget Sounds, Seattle WA Audio clips
2. Esterno Notte
An incredible compilation of Italian library music, specifically tailored for nocturnal and urban settings. The heavyweight composers (Sorgini, Alessondroni, Umiliani) are all here with a track but the album is beginning to end good, perfect for kicking back with a glass of wine (or beer if you're me) and surrounding yourself with sound. All tracks are either previously unreleased or unreleased on vinyl so odds are there's something here for even the deepest collections. Purchased direct from Four Flies records.
Acquired: Direct from Four Flies Audio clips
1. Powerhouse - Five Plus Four
Yet another seldom-seen library funk monster from the obscure Music Library catalogs of Europe, this time from the Bruton label. Originally issued in 1975, it was re-issued in 1996 and varies its style between predominantly funk and funky jazz. Clean production all the way and tightly mic’ed buttery drums are the constant of the record.
Acquired: from Music Library vendor in Europe Audio clips