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:

443 – RUSTED ROOT
444 – SARAH VAUGHN
445 – STYX
446 – STEELEYE SPAN
447 – DEAD KENNEDYS
448 – GARBAGE
449 – BARRY MANILOW
450 – JEWEL
451 – COLE PORTER


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:

HELP ME LORD...i HAVE TO ACTUALLY PRESS THE BUTTON THAT PLAYS THIS...

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..."

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