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!


Anonymous said…
The message boards have indicated there is a Beatles backlash and a concerted attempt by some to keep them out of the top spot. I believe it will work so here are my predictions for the top five.

1. Bob Dylan
2. The Beatles
3. Bruce Springsteen
4. U2
5. Pink Floyd

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