Tuesday, October 17, 2006

WXPN's 885 Greatest Artists - Counting 'Em Down in Real Time, Part 3 - The Top 285

It's over! WXPN's countdown of the 885 Greatest Artists of all time as voted by the xpn community ended at 7pm Monday October 23rd with the final entry, #1 - THE BEATLES. The only thing better than listening to the countdown was simultaneously listening while reading and participating in the xpn discussion boards. The thread with the most fun was the running commentary on the Comment on Current Artist thread. Also check out xpn's staff and artist picks, and xpn's music blog. My picks w/full discussion are here. Coverage of the first three days of the countdown can be found here. Coverage of the middle portion of the countdown is here. The party finally concluded Tuesday when Helen Leicht devoted her entire airshift to playing The Beatles from 10am to 2pm as she celebrated her 30th anniversary on Philadelphia radio. The four hours went by in a flash and the Beatles (and Helen) never sounded better. Helen's anniversary tribute continued Tuesday night at the Philly Local concert at World Cafe Live, taped for future broadcast; full coverage and pictures to be posted soon.

The Finale at World Cafe Live, Monday 10/23/06
David Dye hosted the final three hours of the countdown from World Cafe Live Upstairs, with the listenership invited to hang and party. After the World Cafe break from 2-4pm, David came back on the air at 4pm to present #3 - THE ROLLING STONES. After an hour of prime Stones tracks, the big moment was at hand. After the 5pm news, David began the 5pm hour with no intro other than that the following song begins with a famous drumbeat, going right into the first track of #2 - BOB DYLAN with "Like a Rolling Stone". Nice touch, following an hour of the Rolling Stones with that track.

During the broadcast Dan Reed explained some of the voting statistics. The total number of listeners who voted was approximately 6,400. At the bottom of the list, artists received votes from approximately 10-15 people. The vote count was close between #2 and #3, and even closer between #3 and #4 (about 100 points), however #1 beat #2 by a landslide.

With #2 revealed, it was instantly clear that the final position of the countdown would be #1 - THE BEATLES. And even though the suspense was gone, it with with a celebretory air that Helen Leicht joined David at the mike to introduce the final hour. The good feelings seemed totally mutual between the station staff and the listenership. It was the most fun that two weeks of radio can be, and here's hoping that they come up with another great idea for next year. Remember to click on each photo to enlarge. All photos © W.Kates, 2006.

Matt Reilly & David Dye (proof for Matt's parents that they are really two separate people)

An Open Letter to WXPN
I posted the following to open a thank-you thread to WXPN on the bulletin board. You can read the complete thread with all the replies here.

To: Roger, Bruce, David, Michaela, Helen, Dan, Matt & Robert
(and everyone else who works behind the scenes at xpn)

Congratulations and major thanks for a great countdown broadcast. Radio listening doesn't get any better or more fun than when you can immerse in the music (good, bad or otherwise) and follow the always humorous commentary on the bulletin board - so much for getting any work done these last two weeks.

Your song selection by committee has been absolutely wonderful. Not that we couldn't all nitpick this, that or the other artist but by and large you are firing on all cylinders almost all the time. The opportunities for greatness are being realized more often than not - the sets this morning by Traffic and Warren Zevon were just perfect, to name just two. Respecting the music has never been more evident on the xpn air and I'm sure I speak for many other members and listeners when I say


Here's the Top Fifty Artists of All Time (as voted by 6,400 listeners):


#5 - U2
#12 - THE WHO

#17 - R.E.M.



#36 - THE BAND
#39 - PRINCE
#40 - YES
#50 - STING

Scorecard - Here's How My Picks Did
1. The Beatles - #1.
2. Stevie Wonder - #22.
3. Yes - #40.
4. Genesis - #55.
5. Bruce Springsteen - #4.
6. Creedence Clearwater Revival - #121.
7. Swing Out Sister - Didn't place.
8. The Average White Band - Didn't place.
9. Brian Auger's Oblivion Express- Didn't place.

10. Joni Mitchell - #10.

And My Next Ten (Honorable Mentions):
11. Del Amitri - #790.
12. Steely Dan - #27.
13. Pink Floyd - #9.
14. Julia Fordham - Didn't place.
15. Tanita Tikaram - Didn't place.
16. Chris Rea - #858.
17. Louis Armstrong - #93.
18. Burt Bacharach - Didn't place.
19. Ray Charles - #47.
20. Nat King Cole - #196.

Monday 10/23/06 - Day Fifteen, The Finale
The countdown resumed at 6am with #12 - THE WHO and #11 - JIMI HENDRIX getting four songs per artist in the 6am-7am hour, after which the top ten began, with each artist getting a full hour. After the World Cafe break from 2-4pm, the countdown ended with a wrap party at World Cafe Live Upstairs. #3 - THE ROLLING STONES was revealed at 4pm, and #2 - BOB DYLAN at 5pm; like with beauty contests, when #2 was announced, #1 was also known. #1 - THE BEATLES ended the the countdown from 6-7pm. What a great ride it's been. We'll all have to deal with countdown withdrawl tomorrow.

Sunday 10/22/06 - Day Fourteen
The countdown resumed at 11am after Sleepy Hollow picking up with #43 - RICHARD THOMPSON and ran four songs per artist until about 9:15pm (pre-empting Mountain Stage and the first hour or so of the folk show to get proper timing for completion tomorrow) ending with #13 - VAN MORRISON.

One of the bulletin board contributors who uses the screen name Uncle Meat (a Frank Zappa album title), uses this Zappa quote as his board signature which I found especially cool: "Without music to decorate it, time is just a collection of dates by which bills must be paid." - Frank Zappa.

As you can tell by looking at the top fifty artist list above, it was a day of heavy hitters. While some sets were better than others, it got to the point that with artists this good, it would be hard to go wrong picking any four songs. The Yes set could have been better but wasn't as bad as it might've been (like the Genesis set). Certain iconic artists seemed to get universal love on the bulletin board, but none more than #16 - DAVID BOWIE who was the beneficiary of an unabashed love fest generating seven or eight board pages of bliss. The board posts were coming so fast and furious that it was hard to keep up. By the last song in the set, "Heroes" it was hard not to get caught up in the euphoria.

Saturday 10/21/06 - Day Thirteen
The countdown resumed at 10am after Sleepy Hollow with the rest of the set by #71 - THE POLICE. Running three songs per artist until approximately 3:30pm when we hit #50-Sting at which point it went to four songs per artist, ending up with #44-FRANK ZAPPA at 6pm. Things started out well, but by afternoon the countdown jumped the shark as all the song selection principles that have governed the last two weeks of countdown seemed to go out the window. The following was all posted in real time during today's playback; read on.

If ever a set of music sounded as great as the weather looks outside right now in Philadelphia, it would be #70 - THE EAGLES with "Already Gone", "One of These Nights" and "Hotel California", Go Egos!

#66 - LUCINDA WILLIAMS - Sounded great on a guitar-driven set of "Passionate Kisses", "Something About What Happens When We Talk" and "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road". Bruce Warren kickin' it on the early shift today.

#64 - DIRE STRAITS - Should've been in my top ten. Nice set of "Sultans of Swing", "Skateaway" and "Money for Nothing". Can't say anything bad about that last song since it's so iconic but "Brothers in Arms" would've been a way better choice.

#63 - ARETHA FRANKLIN - Had to declare a "snark-free zone" on the bulletin board for the duration of Aretha's set of "Respect", "Chain Of Fools" and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" (last tune written incidentally by Carole King & Gerry Goffin). Queen of Soul indeed!

#61 - COLDPLAY - Set totally avoided their excellent but perhaps suffering from an overexposure backlash last album X&Y, with a set of "Yellow", "Politik" and "Moses". Bruce Warren mentioned that he changed the song selections on the fly. Keane set me up to finally get into this great band last year. Good showing on the countdown regardless.

#60 - STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN - Hearing "Riviera Paradise" on xpn totally made my day, a guitar master working at the top of his form (almost made up for not hearing "Brothers in Arms" earlier). This is a great track to demo your sound system with. We also heard "Pride & Joy" and "Couldn't Stand the Weather"in a great sounding SRV set.

#58 - JANIS JOPLIN - Sounded great and way cool as paired with
#57 - FRANK SINATRA - With so many great songs, how could you argue with "Summer Wind", "I've Got You Under My Skin" amd "My Way". The Chairman of the Board unquestionably. Leading joyfully into the next set, by
#56 - SANTANA - Another consummate guitar master, sounding awesome going all the way back to the original studio version of "Soul Sacrifice". Wow, what another great hour of radio.

#55 - GENESIS - Surprisingly not in the top fifty, Genesis was given one of the lamest sets imaginable, with "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway", "A Trick Of the Tail" and "Follow You Follow Me". As one of the most accomplished progressive rock bands ever, they deserved better. As if that wasn't bad enough, it was followed by
#54 - PHISH - Argh! Countdown taking a downturn right now. I was willing to listen without prejudice and the first two songs in the set weren't bad but "Gotta Jibboo" sent me right over the edge. How the f**k did this group make the top 100. Yikes!

#53 - THE BEACH BOYS - Got a safe and obvious set of "Good Vibrations", "Wouldn't It Be Nice" and "Surfin' USA". I daresay Charlie from Bloggerythms would have picked a better set.
#52 - THE KINKS - Nice to hear these Kinks classics but again we're treading very familiar territory here with "You Really Got Me", "Celluloid Heroes" and "Lola"; nice but boring, would rather have heard "Waterloo Sunset".

#51 - SIMON & GARFUNKEL - Another safe and unimaginative set included "Mrs. Robinson", "Sounds Of Silence" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water", yawn. What happened to the song selection committee? Either they're not picking songs that way anymore or someone didn't show up to the meeting when they picked this section of the countdown.

#50 - STING - The same holds true for Sting, now with four songs to select, they played none of his really great tunes, only the safe and obvious. WTF? And just when it seemed like things were too totally predictable, on came
#49 - JOHN COLTRANE - Yay, pure jazz. Finally, a well chosen set of "Giant Steps", "Acknowledgement (A Love Supreme)", "My Favorite Things", and "All Or Nothing At All".

- The countdown went back in the tank with this lamest of all possible Billy Joel sets: "Piano Man", "Say Goodbye To Hollywood", "Only The Good Die Young" and "You May Be Right". Much consternation on the bulletin board. I'm sticking to the theory that some key person or persons didn't show up for the meeting when they picked today's sets. A really golden opportunity was missed when they didn't end Billy Joel's set with his Ray Charles song "Baby Grand" knowing that next up in the countdown was
#47 - RAY CHARLES - You could throw darts and not go wrong picking four Ray Charles songs so this set would be hard to screw up but damn if they didn't again stick to the most obvious and predictable hits, at least three out of four. Sheesh. See you on the bulletin board.

Friday 10/20/06 - Day Twelve
The countdown picked up at 6am with #110 - LITTLE FEAT and continued with two songs per artist until sometime a little after 8am when we hit #100- JETHRO TULL (a great set) and began hearing three songs per artist continuing on until 7pm when today's edition ended with song one by #71 - THE POLICE.

Amazing that #105 - Cream, #103 - Crosby, Stills & Nash, and #102 - Traffic didn't make the top 100, but we did get an absolutely perfect set from Traffic with "Glad/Freedom Rider" counting as one song, followed by "Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys".

#99 - Warren Zevon a happy surprise in the top 100 with a perfect set consiting of "Poor Poor Pitiful Me", "Werewolves Of London" and "Keep Me In Your Heart" that brought lumps to many throats on the bulletin board. #97 - Ludwig Van Beethoven sounded great with Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Fur Elise W. 59, and Symphony No. 8. prompting this post to the bulletin board from spark who wrote: I'm EXTREMELY disappointed we didn't hear any Beethoven original performances, only anemic cover versions.

Heavy hitters coming fast and furious now:
#92 - Paul McCartney
#93 - Louis Armstrong
#94 - Carole King
#95 - John Hiatt

#88 - The Moody Blues caught some deservedly heavy snark but I thoroughly enjoyed the set. #87 - WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART who beat out Bach, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Gershwin, sounded great with a set that consisted of Overture To The Marriage Of Figaro, Piano Sonata No. 15, and Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. In another great stylistic set collision, Mozart was followed by #86 - THE RAMONES who also sounded great although I must admit to never having intentionally listened to them previously.

In another appropos pairing, #81 - TORI AMOS was followed by #80 - ANI DIFRANCO, and while both have a solid constituency as evidenced by their placement on this list, they each seemed to have at least that many detractors on the board today. Later this afternoon there was a virtually snark-free zone as we all enjoyed a sublime set of
#77 - B. B. KING

Get some sleep if you can, the countdown resumes tomorrow morning after Sleepy Hollow.

Thursday 10/19/06 - Day Eleven
The countdown resumed this morning at 6am with #167 -ROXY MUSIC and continued with two songs per artist until today's playback ended with #111 - DAVID GRAY at 7pm. In between there was diversity to extreme once again, a factor that is likely to diminish somewhat as the countdown nears its conclusion.

Lots of snarky fun again today on the bulletin board, with the most disdain reserved for #162 - THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS, #122 - MATCHBOX 20, #120 - DAR WILLIAMS, and #116 - JIMMY BUFFETT. David Dye as his bulletin board alter ego Mezzanine actually posted snark alerts just prior to the last two, injecting yet another dimension to the good humor taking place on the board. Creedence had the unenviable position of being sandwiched between Matchbox 20 and Dar.

Crash segues are more common than not these days but here were a pair of entries that actaully complemented each other.

One of the more interesting and varied sequences:

And finally, a few entries of note:
113 - RUSH - Even though is got very little love on the bulletin board while playing, it was awesome of xpn to air a twenty minute Rush track, "2112" as one of thier two tunes. This definitely bodes well for a redeemer for Yes when their turn comes.
121 - CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL - Great song selection of "Lodi" and "Born on the Bayou" especially considering the multitude of great songs they had to pick from.
129 - MICHAEL JACKSON - Board comments more restrained in their snarkiness than you might expect.
133 - GEORGE HARRISON - George's placement essentially ruled out any chance that Ringo might place in the 885.
134 - JEFFERSON AIRPLANE - Still sounding great, reminding of the glory days of Surrealistic Pillow and Volunteers.
141 - XTC - This fine Britpop outfit doesn't normally get anywhere near the xpn airplay that they should.
148 - JOAN BAEZ - Diamonds and Ruse sounded as great today as it ever did.
153 - BRUCE COCKBURN - Another well deserved placement.
158 - ROY ORBISON - Inspired the careers of Chris Isaak and Raul Malo as Michaela so astutely pointed out.

Wednesday 10/18/06 - Day Ten
The countdown resumed at 6am with #227 - G. Love & Special Sauce. Shortly after 11, Matt Reilly (sitting in for Helen) broke into the top 200 with #200 - Shawn Colvin. The countdown continued running two songs per artist until concluding with #168 – CAT STEVENS at 7pm.

Lots of well-deserved snark for #206 – BRIGHT EYES with only a couple of brave posters coming to his defense. Finally one of my HM picks placed, #196 – NAT KING COLE, sounding great with "Unforgettable" and "Route 66" kicking off an amazing set in which he was followed by #195 – NINA SIMONE and #194 – BLACK SABBATH, actually sounding great on "Paranoid" and "War Pigs", great selections. Next up #193 - RANDY NEWMAN. Haven't heard a more interesting, varied, and enjoyable hour of radio in many a day (or at least since last year's countdown).

More rap, hard rock and metal than ever saw the inside of the xpn transmitter on the countdown today. None of my picks hit again today (except for the one HM pick), but here's a few interesting entries.

174 – CHICAGO - It was kind of lonely out there on the bulletin board defending Chicago against all comers until Charliemusicfan showed up to help hold the fort. "I'm a Man" and "25 or 6 to 4" both sounded awesome today with the late Terry Kath's guitar really taking the spotlight.
175 – SAM COOKE - That is all.
186 – LAURA NYRO- Great to see her held in such high regard.
189 – NORAH JONES - Norah "Snark" Jones takes way more flack for her music than it deserves. I think she's great.
191 – K.D. LANG - Could've been higher but you can't argue with top 200. There is no limit to her talent.
209 – KEB’ MO’ -- Always souding great.
213 – BUDDY GUY - Another guy whose talent is so huge that it's hard to understand why the mass audience hasn't caught on.

Tuesday 10/17/06 - Day Nine
The countdown resumed with at 6am with #284 - Stone Temple Pilots at 6am, still on two songs per artist, ending with #228 – Alice in Chains at 7pm. More snarky fun on the bulletin board today with #251 – VAN HALEN drawing fire along with #274 – STEVE FORBERT. But the most vitriol was reserved for #255 – DIXIE CHICKS, with only two boardies speaking up in the Chicks' defense.

Crazy diversity has characterized the countdown since day one and today was no execption, check out this juxtaposition of sets from this morning, the first and last of which embody the best and worst of that generation of music.


No picks for me again today, my marginal artists' odds getting slimmer and slimmer by the day. Some playback highlights from today:

229 – AL GREEN - The Rev representin' nicely on the countdown.
233 - CHRIS ISAAK - Enjoying Isaak more than ever since his three season tv show.
234 – MARY CHAPIN CARPENTER - "Shut Up and Kiss Me" was a nice reminder of how much fun her early records were compared to the last few.
235 – JONATHA BROOKE - This placement was surprisingly low considering that she might be more dialed in w/xpn than any other artist.
237 – BETH ORTON- Some posts around 5pm questioned whether this was really not the countdown but the women's music hour.
238 – THELONIOUS MONK- Heavy duty thanks to all who voted for Monk.
239 – JOHN DENVER - The snarking was relatively mild (except for one sick joke) and there were any number of positive posts during this set.
244 – WILSON PICKETT - Another soul giant checks in.
247 – PHIL OCHS - My earliest memory of protest singers was Ochs' "I Ain't Marchin' Anymore" which still sounded great today. Who knew that there'd be this much support to place him at this level.
248 – EMERSON LAKE & PALMER - There was lots of love on the board today for Renaissance, but not so much for ELP.
249 – DEREK TRUCKS BAND - Not much praise for Trucks during his set but in all fairness the two tracks could not convey Trucks' synthesis of jazz & blues.
252 – BOZ SCAGGS - Man "Loan Me a Dime" sounded great today; thanks xpn for spinning the long one.
253 – GOV’T MULE - I stepped out of my office for a minute and missed the Gov't Mule set.
254 – GORDON LIGHTFOOT - There was an equal amount of begging during this set, for and against Helen playing "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald". I think I might've played it but the naysayers prevailed. Plus we also learned that "Sundown" was written about an ex-gf of Lightfoot's who later in life was the person who injected John Belushi with his fatal drug OD.
262 – THE SHINS - This set generated as much praise for Natalie Portman (due to her great scene in Garden State) as it did for the Shins.
263 – DR. JOHN- Must've been the right place but it must've been the wrong time. That is all.
264 – RENAISSANCE- Helen not only spun a perfect Renaissance set including the full length "Ashes Are Burning" but also gave a nice mention of the late Ed Sciaky crediting his long standing affinity for this fine band.
265 – TAJ MAHAL - He had to be here, so glad he made it.
281 – JEFF BECK - Same goes for Jeff Beck, if not more so. Would've liked to hear "Because We've Ended As Lovers".
282 – HALL & OATES- Another perfect set with "She's Gone" and "Fall in Philadelphia". Amen.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

WXPN's 885 Greatest Artists - Counting 'Em Down in Real Time, Part 2 - The Middle 300

We're in the thick of WXPN's countdown of the 885 Greatest Artists of all time as voted by the xpn community. You can keep track of the artists already played by clicking here. If you're not in the WXPN broadcast area, you can listen to the online stream here. The only thing better than listening to the countdown is simultaneously listening while reading and participating in the xpn discussion boards. The best dialogue is on the Comment on Current Artist thread. Also check out xpn's staff and artist picks, and xpn's music blog. My picks are here. Coverage of the first three days of the countdown can be found here.

Monday 10/16/06 - Day Eight
The countdown resumed with #341 at 6am, still at two songs per artist, David Dye broke under #300 shortly after 4pm after World Cafe, and concluded with #285 at 7pm. Lots of folks mixing it up today for some great fun on the bulletin board, with the most derision reserved for Enya #311, Dan Fogelberg #308, Bon Jovi #302 (with a few positive posts), and Neutral Milk Hotel #332. NMH generated a lot of head scratching based on most of the audience having never heard of them before (present company included) questioning how such a relatively unknown band could place this high on the countdown. Again no picks for me today, my marginal artists now seemingly assured not to place, but here are some highlights from today's playback. Tomorrow we begin counting down the top 284.

286 – CARLY SIMON - Not much of an xpn staple, but with a career such as hers, this finish should come as no surprise.
287 – SUZANNE VEGA - Consistently great songwriting combined with great sounding production makes most all of her records a treat.
290 - BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD - Still sounding great after all these years.
292 – JOHN FOGERTY - We'll hear from him again when Creedence places, all honors well deserved.
297 – AL STEWART - The worst part of listening in the car is not having access to the running commentary on the bulletin board. Had I not been in the car during this, I'd have posted something to the effect that this was about the best possible Al Stewart set, haven't heard "Notradamus" in years, "Year of the Cat" being one of the few songs from that era that has not been ruined (for me anyway) by years of overplay (not on xpn), definitely one of the most romantic songs ever. In addition, this set prompted my favorite post of the day from the usually snarky blue_94_trooper who wrote: According to Nostradamus, the world will end before this song. Nice.
307 – ARLO GUTHRIE - Some carping on the board about Helen not playing "Alice's Restaurant" but she did post a promise to play it in about five and a half weeks. Others carped about hearing "City of New Orleans" for the second time in the countdown, previously sung by its writer, Steve Goodman. The music world owes something of a debt to Arlo because his hit with this song really made it possible for the world to know Steve Goodman, a great singer, songwriter and humorist who left us way too soon.
313 – LOVE - Their historical significance is unquestioned, but when I did question whether people actually go home and spin old Love records for enjoyment, I heard back emphatically from any number of boardies who do exactly that (or so they claim).
315 – DAVE BRUBECK - Still going strong into his 80's, this man is a truly an American institution.
317 – STRAWBS - "Benedictus" took me immediately back to 1972 and the memory of seeing them play at the old Main Point. Lots of love for the Strawbs on the board too.
318 – KEANE - A good placement for such a new band, the jury still being out on their second album, but their first was so loaded with melody as to be unstoppable.
319 – GEORGE GERSHWIN - So great to hear "Rhapsody in Blue" today. Another American classic.
333 – COWBOY JUNKIES - Quietly producing works of quality for many years now, thanks to all who voted them in.
334 – EVA CASSIDY - Surprising rare xpn airplay for this pop & jazz singer whose posthumous popularity is due in large part to exposure on NPR, another talent gone way before her time.
336 – JUDY GARLAND - Really only knowing her somewhat affected rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow", it was something of a shock to hear the big band jazz stylings of "Almost Like Being In Love/This Can’t Be Love (Medley)" which sounded just great.
339 – KANSAS - After all the years of being repelled by "Carry On My Wayward Son" it was nice to be reminded of the progressive qualities that characterized their first two albums as evidenced on "Song for America".
340 – HERBIE HANCOCK - Another jazz giant thankfully recognized here.
341 – DAVID BROMBERG - The day started off with a great set by the somewhat enigmatic David Bromberg.

Sunday 10/15/06 - Day Seven
The countdown resumed after Sleepy Hollow with #386 at 11am, playing two songs per artist until ending at 6pm with #342. I did manage to keep track of the countdown while watching football today, but again no time for the message board. John Ondrasik of Five for Fighting who was in town to play World Cafe Live tonight, dropped in on Matt Reilly for an interesting live on-air chat, discussing music and the countdown. His group did well, placing yesterday at #408, a good showing for a relatively new artist.

There is no major significance to this, I found it amusing that Supertramp was follow by Snow Patrol, just the coincidence of similar sounding names struck me as humorous for some reason. Among other things, we found out today that Matt loves Soundgarden but doesn't think much of Fountains of Wayne. No picks of mine aired today, but here's a few that I found notable.

343 – LEO KOTTKE - It's very gratifying to know that Kottke has this many listeners who would count him among their all time top ten artists.
352 – BRANDI CARLILE - I like her record a lot and she was great at the xpn festival this summer but it's hard to understand how an artist on her very first record could even make a list like this, much less place this high.
359 – DEEP PURPLE- Their Machine Head album, by virtue both of its cover and title was somewhat responsible for the coining of the term "heavy metal" - too bad the genre didn't remain as melodic as this within its heaviosity.
360 – NICK LOWE - A tunesmith well deserving of his placement here.
361 – HARRY CHAPIN - Not everything he recorded was memorable, but he's worthy based on the fact that a handful of his songs have true staying power (Taxi, WOLD, Cat's in the Cradle, to name a few).
364 – MARILLION - Big surprise that this second tier progressive band has this many fans here.
376 – GREG BROWN - This is an artist of such uncompromising quality that while you'd want to see him place even higher on this list, you're glad that he placed at all. Go Greg!
379 – SOUTHERN CULTURE ON THE SKIDS - With the possible exception of Los Straitjackets, it's hard to imagine a band with a more delightfully cheesy yet appealing sound.
380 – LOREENA MC KENNITT- If not for the fact that there's been no new album for the last nine years, I think this great artist would have placed higher.

Saturday 10/14/06 - Day Six
The countdown picked up after Sleepy Hollow this morning with #436, playing two songs per artist until ending at 6pm with #387. With two concerts to go to and trying to squeeze in a little work there was no time to read or post to the message board today, but the countdown was as enjoyable as ever, with no end to the screwy combinations of artists. Bruce Warren played an extra song during the Four Tops set, much to the delight of the boardies; Bruce was also his usual accessible self on the board during his airshift Saturday afternoon. No picks from my list placed today but here are some of the more interesting entries.

387 – THE MONKEES - I like the string of hits by the Monkees as much as anyone but I'm having a hard time imagining including them in an all time top ten artists list.
397 – K.T. TUNSTALL - Another surprise showing for a great new artist based on her first and only album.
402 – DAVE MASON - This guy made too many great records in the late sixties/early seventies to have so completely disappeared from view.
404 – SEAL - His songs have a stronger appeal than his level of airplay on xpn would suggest. Thanks to Sleepy Hollow for airing the acoustic versions from the special edition greatest hits album last year.
406 – POCO - One of the groups that helped define country rock in the early seventies with unusually great songwriting.
407 – THE FOUR TOPS - I think we can count on all the stalwarts of Motown to place well on this countdown. One of the first 45s I ever bought was "I Can't Help Myself".
415 – DEREK & THE DOMINOES - Their career was short but their influence was huge, giving them good reason for thier own spot in the countdown.
421 – JIM CROCE - If I could save time in a bottle...
423 – WHISKEYTOWN - Probably here because of Ryan Adams but the combination of Adams and Caitlin Cary made some great records before they went their separate ways.
425 – WEATHER REPORT - When this was on I fondly recalled WIOQ playing their wonderful mellow track, "A Remark You Made".
426 – MASSIVE ATTACK - Chill time on the countdown. Cool.
434 – J.J. CALE - As underrated as he is hugely influential, it is certain that neither Eric Clapton nor Mark Knopfler would sound the way they do if not for J.J. Cale. Knopfler has nicked his style so well on some of his solo records that when you listen to Cale sometimes you might think you had a Knopfler record on.

Friday 10/13/06 - Day Five
The countdown playback resumed with #488 at 6am playing two songs per artist all day except for World Cafe and Free at Noon, ending with #437 at 7pm. Big fun today on both the countdown and the discussion board. Check the following sequence played in counting down order for diversity to the extreme:

445 – STYX
450 – JEWEL

The discussion board venom unleashed on Jewel was quickly eclipsed by the response to Barry Manilow who came next, which later elicited my favorite post of the day from gremlin who wrote:

Cole Porter - Jewel
Barry Manilow - Garbage

It's a countdown and a running commentary.

My other favorite post came late in the day from Juanita who wrote:

443 – RUSTED ROOT - Send Me On My Way; Ecstacy
444 – SARAH VAUGHN - Nice Work If You Can Get It, Summertime
445 – STYX - Lady; Renegade

Reality Check - We're about half way through the 885. Who the hell is Rusted Root?

During the countdown there's never a shortage of snarky comments from listeners posting, but in another rare breath of fresh air from the on air-host, Mezzanine (David Dye) posted this during Garth Brooks #440 at approximately 6:30pm:


None of my picks hit today, but here are a few of the more interesting selections:

446 – STEELEYE SPAN - They really put the rock in folk-rock, British division.
455 – GENTLE GIANT - Progressive jazz/rock somewhat ahead of its time, amazing that they have enough a following even now to place this high in the 885.
456 – TOWER OF POWER - Funky Friday started early today with this prime slice of Bump City.
462 – SANDY DENNY - Another one of our greatest voices silenced way too soon.
469 – SIR DOUGLAS QUINTET - With such enduring hits from the late sixties, why has Doug Sahm been so invisible in all the decades since?
470 – SADE - Nothing but love on the boards today during Sade's set.
475 – BENNY GOODMAN - This set actually elicited a post from Charlie of Bloggerythms who wrote: BENNY GOODMAN! YES! "Sing Sing Sing" is so good it's almost rock n' roll.
476 – MORPHINE - What a set from #480 down to #476; only during an xpn countdown.
477 – MICHAEL MC DERMOTT - Totally don't get the attraction here.
478 – THE YARDBIRDS - Original home of Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, and Eric Clapton; hard to tell from their top forty hits.
479 – EDITH PIAF - Love to know how many voters had Edith Piaf on their top ten lists.
480 – NRBQ - RC Cola and a Moonpie...mmmmm.
482 – THE STOOGES - I'd really love to know how many votes this got and if anyone really listens to this for enjoyment. Good God!
483 – DAVID SYLVIAN - A countdown discovery, never really listened to him before, his set sounded really good this morning.

Thursday 10/12/06 - Day Four
Countdown playback resumed with #578 at 6am and before finishing at 7pm with #489, David Dye broke into two song per artist territory at about 5pm as the countdown hit #500. No major controversy today, just a lot of strong opinions on the discussion board. Dean Martin #520 and Cher #505 had their detractors, but they didn't draw nearly as much venom as The Carpenters #562, not that they're in any way comparable other than they're all equally unlikely to ever have xpn airplay. I had to stand up for the Carpenters with this post:

Just catching up this morning's board and want to thank whoever listed the Carpenters; so great that they placed on this list. Think what you want about 70's top forty, but Karen Carpenter had one of the most amazingly beautiful voices of all time, and it is such a tragic loss that she died so young. The production by brother Richard while sappy sometimes, usually fit the songs perfectly, like this great cover of "Superstar". So good in fact that it doesn't even seem lame anymore that they sanitized the lyric ("be with you again" instead of "sleep with you again"). Time to drag out "Close to You" and "Rainy Days and Mondays".

October Project #545 elicited some refreshing personal opinions from David Dye posting as "Mezzanine" which caused Helen Leicht to speak up in their favor. There were some really great juxtapositions today, my favorites being "Time of the Season" by The Zombies (#526) followed by The Hooters (#527) with "All You Zombies". If any manipulation of the song order was necessary to accomplish this, it was worth it. And as the playback continued, the conversation on the message board did too, and by the time some posters were reminiscing about the Hooters' first album Amore and suggesting that xpn might have played the song "Amore", on came Dean Martin #520 to sing "That's Amore". That's some inspired programming, thanks xpn!

None of my picks hit the playback today, now I'm beginning to worry whether Swing Out Sister, The Average White Band, Brian Auger's Oblivion Express, Julia Fordham, or Tanita Tikaram will even make the 885. Here are a few notable entries from today's playback.

493 – LOWELL GEORGE - Still miss him, wish he placed higher, two tracks sounded great.
495 – JOE WALSH - Despite his attempt to flush his career w/drink & drugs, he was responsible for more great solo material than the two wmmr/wysp staples played today would suggest ("Rocky Mountain Way" and "Life's Been Good" the latter of which kills for the first sixty seconds or so before it descends into lameness). So glad to hear that Joe's kicked the booze and the drugs for some years now.
497 – DUSTY SPRINGFIELD - Always sounds great.
498 – JOHN MAYALL - His mix of blues & jazz seemed way ahead of it's time in the late sixties, still sounding great today. Minor flack on the boards because both tracks were played from The Turning Point and while he has had a hugely lengthy career, that album is so great that you can't fault xpn for drawing both tracks from it.
504 – STEVE GOODMAN - Another artist tragically taken from us at way too early an age.
513 – THE INNOCENCE MISSION - Easy to forget this great band and the beautiful voice of Karen Peris.
522 – SOUTHSIDE JOHNNY & THE ASBURY JUKES - "I Don't Want to Go Home" sounded as great today as when it was new. And since SSJ and the Jukes are still making music that's fun to listen to (rather than good for you) they've surpassed their Springsteenian mentor in some fashion.
524 – RICHIE HAVENS - His voice and his guitar style seem to be totally timeless.
536 – JOAN OSBORNE - This makes two Hooters songs played today as this Eric Bazilian composition features both him and Rob Hyman playing on it.
539 – GLADYS KNIGHT - It doesn't get better than "Midnight Train to Georgia".
540 – DONALD FAGEN - This should've placed way higher, as one could argue that The Nightfly might be the best of all the Steely Dan records.
552 – ZERO 7 - So glad they placed on this list.
556 – MATISYAHU - Totally don't get the appeal here, emperor's new clothes and all that.
561 – THE ALAN PARSONS PROJECT - Taking us back to the glory days of WIOQ w/Helen, David, Harvey in the Morning, Ed Sciaky and Michael Tozzi.
565 – PHIL ROY - One of our best songwriters, the tune "Melt" never fails.
567 – GRACE POTTER & THE NOCTURNALS - As good as this band is, they were totally unknown in this area before their big xpn push this summer which makes placement on this list at all a surprise, much less placement this high.
569 – BLOOD, SWEAT & TEARS - Some flack on the boards this morning for playing David Clayton Thomas era BST rather than the original Al Kooper group, but "Spinning Wheel" still sounded damn good.
570 – DAVID GILMOUR - The guitarist's guitarist, will be heard from again probably on the last day of the countdown.
571 – THE DANDY WARHOLS - I only know this band from their song used as the theme for Veronica Mars, but I like what I've heard. "We used to be friends, a long time ago..."

Monday, October 09, 2006

WXPN's 885 Greatest Artists - Counting 'Em Down in Real Time, Part 1 - The Bottom 300

Wednesday 10/11/06 - Day Three
Countdown playback today ran from #698 at 6am to #579 at 7pm breaking only for the national portion of World Cafe, 2-4pm. A mini-controversy hit the discussion board before most folks had even awakened when Aaron Copland #697 was represented with the song "Banu" instead of possible choices such as "Rodeo", "Appalachian Spring", or "Fanfare for the Common Man" (which would have been my choice).

When Mike Oldfield checked in at #686 with Tubular Bells (1973), it was kind of sad to note that this music seems to be known only as the theme from The Exorcist, in fact one discussion board poster lamented the lost opportunity to finagle the results a few places to make this tune come in at #666. No complaint here, but I would have found it really cool had they played the complete side one that begins with the familiar theme and ends with an exuberant finale with all the instruments introduced by Viv Stanshall of the Bonzo Dog Band.

"Mack the Knife" by Bobby Darin #587 sounded great on the countdown today. The metal set consisting of The Offspring #618, Iron Maiden #617 and Pantera #616 tested the open mindedness of some of the board denizens not to mention air host Helen Leicht, but diversity was the order of the day. Best quote from the discussion board came from Mercedes Medina who wrote: "Well I'm all for musical diversity, but some of this stuff is just crap." "Beautiful" by James Blunt (#595) caught some deserved flack too: Basia wrote "My life was beautiful until I heard this damned song." None of my picks fell in today's portion of the countdown, but here are a few interesting entries that did place today:

594 - OVER THE RHINE - Nice to see this fairly unknown band place on the 885.
596 - GREY EYE GLANCES - A great local band who haven't been heard from in some time.
607 – DIDO - She'd certainly have made my top ten had I not emphasized longevity of career in my picks.
608 – KIRSTY MAC COLL - XPN apparently never tires of hearing "In These Shoes?" Nor do I.
609 – WES MONTGOMERY - Great choice to play "Bumpin' on Sunset" not only because Montgomery's own version of his classic is cool, but it inspired a totally definitive cover version by Brian Auger who I sincerely hope will be heard from later in the countdown.
629 – ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO - I somehow missed hearing this guy until this year's xpn festival, but he is good and his spot on the countdown is well deserved.
632 – BING CROSBY - "White Christmas" by the voice of Christmas.
633 – J. GEILS BAND - Wonder why xpn never plays these guys normally.
634 – TOM RUSH - "Urge for Going" is a great cover version of one of Joni Mitchell's very best compositions.
637 – THE SUNDAYS - I'd forgotten about this band, thanks to whoever voted them in.
643 – AIR - Progressive rock (of a fashion) still lives in France apparently.
650 – MICHELLE SHOCKED - "Anchorage" always sounds great.
653 – BLIND FAITH - Can't believe this didn't place higher. One of the earliest supergroups.
659 – GRAHAM NASH - We'll be hearing more from him later (Hollies, CSN&Y, speaking of supergroups) .
660 – THE EVERLY BROTHERS - Still sounding fresh after all these years.
661 – THE TRAVELING WILBURYS - A nice set combination with the Everly Bros.
670 – GRAND FUNK RAILROAD - One of my earliest guilty pleasures, so cool to hear them on the xpn air. Even in their time it was somewhat embarassing to admit you liked them.
692 – TOM JONES - No panties were flung on the boards this morning, virtual or otherwise.
696 – CHET ATKINS - His musical significance is way understated by his placement this low. Thanks to those who listed him.

Tuesday 10/10/06 - Day Two
Let's start the day with a prediction of how the top five will fall. XPN is asking for prognostication on this, and while I am pretty certain that the Beatles, Dylan and Bruce will be the top three, the order could vary. Slots four and five are a little harder to totally predict; Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, or U2 could each place, being that they're well represented in the top ten lists of the xpn staff and artists as well as in the last two countdowns, but here is my best guess as to the ultimate top five:

1. The Beatles
2. Bob Dylan
3. Bruce Springsteen
4. The Rolling Stones
5. The Who

The fund drive ended at 10am today and after that it was full speed ahead for the countdown. Only breaking for the national portion of World Cafe (2-4pm), today's playback went from #799 at 6am to #699 finishing up at 7pm. Bruce Warren posted the playback plan to the discussion board:

#885-501 - one song from each artist
#500-101 - two songs from each artist
#100-51 - three songs from each artist
#50-11 - four songs from each artist
#10-2 - one full hour from each artist
#1 - to be determined...maybe we'll play an entire day of that artist's music!!

Catching the broadcast haphazardly today, I was excited to hear "Hide and Seek" by Imogen Heap, an artist that I'll freely admit I only first heard of at this time last year, and if not for my methodology that weighted career longevity and number of albums, Imogen would certainly have made my top ten. She came in at #724, very respectable for someone only three records into a career; it was also great to see her on one of the xpn staff top ten lists.

Del Amitri (#790) is the only artist from my list to air today, and while anyone familiar with their music will tell you that #790 is way too low, we should really just be glad that they placed at all. Commercial success for them has never matched the level of their artistic achievement, producing a perfect album, Twisted (1995) as well as several near perfect records; and while I normally don't spend much time with best-of compilations, their Hatful of Rain: The Best of Del Amtri (1998) is such a great collection that it's totally worthy of time on your player.

Since the two most obscure artists on my lists have already placed, I think it's safe to assume that all of my picks will place before the countdown is done. Here are a few other interesting entries from today's playback:

701 – THE NIELDS - Nice to see quirky folk/pop/country represented.
706 – BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB - RIP Ruben Gonzalez and Ibrahim Ferrer, a couple of major talents we'd likely never know if not for Ry Cooder and Wim Wenders.
707 – MADELEINE PEYROUX - Amazing how her voice evokes the 1930's.
712 – THE GUESS WHO - Their hits still sound great (most of 'em).
713 – EVERYTHING BUT THE GIRL - Another great Brit band whose music way exceeds their commercial success.
725 – STEPPENWOLF - Some of the best rockin' singles (and albums) from the late sixties.
726 – DAVID CROSBY - Seems kind of low considering his accomplisments, but I'm sure we'll see CSN and/or CSNY farther on up the list.
731 – THE MAMAS & THE PAPAS - Sixties top forty radio sounded great whenever their songs came on.
737 – WEIRD AL YANKOVIC - Don't think I've ever heard Weird Al on xpn, but his discography of parody songs is huge.
746 – KARLA BONOFF - Way, way too low for one of our best ever songwriters, and no one does her tunes better than her.
778 – RETURN TO FOREVER - Nice to see them recognized here.
785 – KISS - Yikes! Double Yikes!!
792 – SONNY LANDRETH - Love that killer electric Lousiana slide.
797 – JOHN WESLEY HARDING - One spin on xpn some years ago of his Waterloo Sunset medley (a rare b-side) totally brought me into the JWH tent.
798 – PREFAB SPROUT - Another great Brit band, way under-recognized.

Monday 10/09/06 - Day One
The playback has begun of WXPN's listener survey to determine the 885 Greatest Artists of all time. The first two days of the countdown are overlapping the last two days of the fall fund drive so it may not be too easy to listen now, but by sometime tomorrow the fundraising will conclude and it'll be time to strap in for the duration. You can keep track of the artists already played by clicking here. If you're not in the WXPN broadcast area, you can listen to the online stream here. Listen and enjoy!

Now would be a great time to check out and participate in the xpn discussion boards as the results are revealed. Also check out xpn's staff and artist picks, and xpn's music blog. My picks are here. The prevailing wisdom was that the bottom of the list would be a little strange, and it is to some extent, but good artists are alreay showing up even at the bottom of the list. I'll keep updating this post during the countdown with highlights and surprising entries.

Chris Rea, a long time favorite (made my second ten), actually made the countdown, coming in at #858, ahead of such quality artists as Kim Richey (#864), Marc Broussard (#865), The James Gang (#868), Shemekia Copeland (#869), Jesse Colin Young (#871) and Barry White (#883).

Today's playback, at one track per artist, interspersed with pledge breaks included the last 85 artists on the list, from #885 down to #800. A few other artists of interest in this group include:

801 – LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM - Should definitely have placed higher.
802 – THE LOVIN’ SPOONFUL - Thanks to whoever voted for them.
804 – GNARLS BARKLEY - Wow, the power of a summer hit is just....Crazy!
805 – CRASH TEST DUMMIES - And sometimes I despair the world will never see another man like him.
812 – RALPH MC TELL - "Streets of London" is a truly great song, but it's hard to imagine McTell making anyone's all time top ten artists list.
814 – DON MC LEAN - A classic as American as, well, you know...
817 – THE VERVE - "Bittersweet Symphony" is an overlooked gem of a song.
819 – PETER FRAMPTON - Should've placed higher but still apparently getting backlash from 30 yr old Frampton Comes Alive oversaturation - unbelievable.
823 – SIMPLE MINDS - Glad these guys weren't forgotten.

In keeping with previous countdowns, this one didn't make it through the first day without controversy. When it came time to play Andrea Bocelli (#833), the instrumental version of his classic "Time to Say Goodbye" was played, much to the dismay of those who voted for this accomplished pop and opera singer. Someone on the message board wrote: I believe we have this year's "America". Go xpn!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Battlestar Galactica Season 3.0 - It's All True

From director Kevin Smith on last week's Ebert & Roeper to Ken Tucker in the latest Entetainment Weekly, the reviews are unanimous that the current Battlestar Galactica television series is the best written, most intense drama series currently (or maybe ever) on network television. Season three debuts tonight on the SciFi Channel and is not to be missed.

Here's the Ken Tucker review:

Battlestar Galactica (Season 3)
Reviewed by
Ken Tucker

When it comes to science fiction, I'm an agnostic: I have no use for everything from Star Trek to Stargate, and prefer to ponder the stuff, if at all, in print form (yay, Tom Disch; boo, Harlan Ellison). Nevertheless, Battlestar Galactica gets to me as much as any serialized drama on the air. There are no actors in stupid alien makeup, no cornball comic-relief characters. The worst the series gets, as far as mumbo-jumbo sci-fi lingo goes, is that the people in this outer-space future constantly say ''frak'' instead of the F-word.

Galactica has a conceptual hook that pays off as adventure, as theory, and as metaphor. It goes like this: The remaining humans from the bombed Twelve Colonies are in perennial search of a new homeland and in perpetual battle against the Cylons — man-made machines gone evil on us, some of whom look human. The actual humans are led by a brave spaceship admiral (Edward James Olmos) and, by her example as a moral deep thinker, a teacher-turned-government leader-turned-teacher again (Mary McDonnell). The Cylon enemies include sexies like platinum blond Number Six (shoulder-bladey Tricia Helfer), who's turned one human — the show's current president of the Twelve Colonies — Gaius Baltar (frowny Brit James Callis), into a pathetic, quivering jelly of a man. (I suppose one has to say, this being science fiction: not literal jelly.) Baltar is a stand-in for the fanboys tuning in: If you diagrammed his skull you'd see three sections — rationality, guile, and ummm, pretty girrrrlll!

This season centers on attempts by Olmos' rusty space cadets to rescue McDonnell's enslaved-by-Cylons refugees from a barren patch of space rock that (barely) supports human life. McDonnell and the supporting players we've come to know are now either tortured husks, conflicted collaborators, or seething revolutionaries. That's where Battlestar Galactica is most sci-fi-like: It presents life as a miserable dystopia (see: everything from Orwell's 1984 to Blade Runner) filled with people seeking to create a utopia (hopefully, on the fabled Earth). The best villain is a religious-hypocrite Cylon played by Dean Stockwell, channeling his Blue Velvet-era venality. The best hero is Galactica spaceship pilot Sharon (Grace Park), a Cylon who turned her (glowing red) back on her fellow ''skinjobs.'' For viewers seeking contemporary metaphors, there are suicide bombers, talk of ''the insurgency,'' and feisty debates about warfare strategy. Any show that can accommodate decadent cruelty, tragic bravery, and political divisiveness is one you ought to be watching, frakkin' spaceships or not. Grade: A-

Posted: 09/29/06

If you're new to Battlestar Galactica, many great viewing pleasures await you on DVD. Start with the miniseries in which the original lame series from the 1970's (originally something of a cheesy Star Wars knockoff) was "reimagined" into compelling drama. Seasons one and two are also available, season two divided into two DVD sets, season 2.0 and season 2.5 reflecting the manner in which the original shows are broadcast on the SciFi Channel.

Battlestar Galactica Miniseries (2003)

Battlestar Galactica Season One

Battlestar Galactica Season 2.0

Battlestar Galactica Season 2.5

WXPN's 885 Greatest Artists - The Countdown Starts Monday

The votes are in and are being tabulated for WXPN's listener survey to determine the 885 Greatest Artists of all time. The on-air countdown starts Monday. The format for the playback has not been announced yet, but there's always some great radio when xpn breaks format for these countdowns. If you're not in the WXPN broadcast area, you can listen to the online stream here.

The 885 artists list by design will include a huge selection of artists, much larger than either of the last two countdowns which each included multiple songs or albums by a given artist. Things could very well sound a little nutty on Monday at the bottom of the 885; I'll be glued to my radio for the duration.

Check out and participate in the xpn discussion boards which always heat up during the countdown, with real time critiques, reaction and tears as the results are revealed. Also check out xpn's staff and artist picks, and xpn's music blog. My picks are here. Listen and enjoy!