Follow the links below to reach Amazon's page for each disc.
Cover Artist/Album from reviews: Date listed
The Magnetic Fields,

The Charm of the Highway Strip (1994)

[Stephin] Merritt has never sounded better, his thick voice wrapping the lyrics in warm wooly blankets of sound and not twanging too much over what are really country songs with a few indy rock effects thrown in....  It's pure americana, baby, and it makes me homesick like a motha...[more].

24 Jan 09

Tin Drum (1981)

[T]he album where Japan finally hit their stride....  David Sylvian's compositions combined drastically separated influences like Roxy Music, Erik Satie, and Eastern Asian... musics to form something wholly other, supported the unique, rubbery fretless bass...of Mick Karn...[more].

17 Jan 09
Harold Budd,

The Serpent (In Quicksilver)/Abandoned Cities (1984)

Powerful, imposing music -- good for epic passages in your life.  Harold Budd is one of the few artists that I can think of who has truly expanded the scope of music in our strange and frightening postnuclear, postmodern, postfreedom


10 Jan 09
Brian Eno and Harold Budd,

Ambient 2:  The Plateaux of Mirror (1980)

What is truly striking about Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror is that all of the songs are interesting and memorable. All of them. And we have Budd to thank for that, but Plateaux is also one of Eno's most notable production jobs, and the two stand side by side in its creation...[more].  3 Jan 09
Bang on a Can,

Music for Airports (1998)

Eno's idea was to make a series of tape loops...[,] a sonic backdrop for bland public spaces that would reward close listening. Bang on a Can, playing acoustic and electric instruments, breathe life into it, making the music's neutrality seem coldly beautiful...[more]. 27 Dec 08
Brian Eno,

Ambient 1:  Music for Airports (1978)

Evolving by tiny gradations, the long pieces of Music For Airports...defy close attention, but then they're not meant to be listened to consciously; they're meant to serve as a counterpoint to the frantic arcs of travel, or rather to be imagined in that setting....[more]. 20 Dec 08
David Byrne and Brian Eno,

Everything That Happens Will Happen Today (2008)

[T]he pair rejoin the rock conversation as if they'd never left....  Byrne wrote the words and sang lead. And Eno made the music, bringing an effervescent sonic gloom that adds some mystery and tension to Byrne's plainspoken lyrics qualities missing from much of Byrne's solo work...[more]. 13 Dec 08
Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band,

Doc at the Radar Station (1977)

Doc at the Radar Station is 100% essential, top quality Beefheart....  It is very much a return to the Trout Mask Replica style of off-kilter poetry set to complex, dissonant music. The best songs on this album represent some of the best stuff he ever did...[more]. 6 Dec 08
Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band,

Trout Mask Replica (1969)

There is really no easy way to recommend this disc: experimental music-enthusiast or not, there are *still* no guarantees. This is quite an apocalyptic, monumental experience in avant-rock.... In the world of popular music, it doesn't get much more challenging than this...[more]. 29 Nov 08
The Three O'Clock,

Sixteen Tambourines (1983)

The Three O'Clock (a name surely inspired by The Strawberry Alarm Clock) was one of the best alternative bands of the 80s. A central member of L.A.'s "Paisley Underground," the group channeled the sounds of sunshine pop-era groups...[more]. 22 Nov 08
Dave Douglas,

The Infinite (2002)

Together with a solid rhythm section, the group covers six new Douglas compositions and, most interestingly, three covers of pop tunes.... Douglas claims to have finally dealt with Miles Davis's legacy of beautiful melodies on The Infinite...but this record owes nothing to anyone... [more]. 15 Nov 08

Tomorrow (1968)

Tomorrow was a better-than-average sixties psychedelic band who had some inkling of how to use the recording studio to make interesting records... [with an] overall sound of luscious fender guitar slurps, crazy stereo panning, and whimsical lyrics with front-and-center vocals... [more]. 8 Nov 08
Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band,

Safe As Milk (1967)

Safe as Milk is a bold, tough-ass distillation of Delta blues stomp and '60s garage-punk swagger, fused with a radically polyrhythmic and tempo-shifting style that one might term "art rock".... [I]t's easy to see why Lester Bangs called Beefheart "the only true dadaist in rock"... [more]. 1 Nov 08
The Groundhogs,

Thank Christ for the Bomb (1970)

[T]he start of the Groundhogs heavy period....  The cuts are heavily steeped in the blues but have an edge to them. My favorite cut was a song John Peel played a lot on his radio show..."Soldier." I see this album cover and automatically think of that song. Highly recommended... [more]. 25 Oct 08
Kate Bush,

Hounds of Love (1985)

Bush's career high point, where her experimental art sensibilities were leavened with enough pop understanding to achieve a masterpiece of production, performance, and purpose, propelled with a singular power of vision and which wraps up in a peaceful platitude . . . [more]. 18 Oct 08
Susumu Yokota,

Sakura (1999)

Very cinematic soundscapes by Japan's premier techno artist/producer. Each song plunges into a different side of the human psyche and mines it for the right connection of nostalgia and optimism. It's not a dance album but rather a chill out album . . . [more]. 11 Oct 08
Miles Davis,

Cookin' (1956)

When Miles Davis formed his classic 1st Quintet . . . Cookin' was the first [album] to be released and . . . features the strongest material and the best song selection. The two bop tunes, two blues and one ballad provide a balance that isn't really present on the other three albums . . . [more]. 4 Oct 08
John Lee Hooker,

House of the Blues (1959)

John Lee Hooker is in my opinion the first true Detroit rock and roll artist that follows in a fine tradition of the Stooges, The MC5, and Motown. The music on this album is probably the heaviest type of blues of ever heard. A little more ferocious, and darker than most . . . [more]. 27 Sept 08
The Beatles,

Revolver (1966)

Revolver wouldn't remain the Beatles' most ambitious LP for long, but many fans--including this one--remember it as their best. An object lesson in fitting great songwriting into experimental production and genre play . . . as conceptually brilliant as anything Sgt. Pepper attempted . . . [more]. 20 Sept 08
Dead Can Dance,

The Serpent's Egg (1988)

The influences are from Renaissance Christian chants, Middle Eastern chants from Egypt and Palestine, and Germanic-Celtic-Druid folk music. The mood is usually moody, brooding, dark, somber, meditative rather than gleeful . . . .  It is well-integrated world music . . . [more]. 13 Sept 08

Argybargy (1980)

Squeeze is a slightly overlooked pop treasure. They have always been a tight little outfit, and to me, this is their best. Pop fun with enough edge (remember when if it fit no category, it was "new wave"?) to stay interesting over the years . . . [more]. 6 Sept 08
Todd Rundgren,

Todd (1974)

[R]eminds me of Electric Ladyland, in that they both were sprawling double LPs opening with a short, spacy/galactic track, then segueing into a trippy ballad, followed by a large serving of variety . . . Both albums were also centered around love, soul-searching, and a degree of spirituality . . . [more]. 30 Aug 08
The Flamin' Groovies,

Shake Some Action (1976)

When Shake Some Action blasted onto the tired 1976 music scene, the Groovies' Dave Edmunds-produced update on British Invasion style, along with the Ramones debut that same year, were the early tremors of the punk shockwave that has resonated for decades . . . [more]. 23 Aug 08
Stevie Wonder,

Original Musiquarium I (1982)

[A] greatest hits album that spans the most fruitful period of Stevie Wonder's career, 1972-1980. The album does not leave out any of the hits from that era. You get "Higher Ground," "Superstition," "Master Blaster", "Isn't She Lovely," "I Wish," "Sir Duke," among others . . . [more]. 16 Aug 08
Susumu Yokota,

Image 1983-1998 (1999)

[T]hese minimalist, lo-fi, delicately affecting and quiet meditative drifting pieces that usually revolve around plucked guitar and distant tones that our squeezed out of a pump organ, [are] curiously charming . . . .  It’s . . . particularly gorgeous in a off-kilter kind of way . . . [more]. 9 Aug 08
Michael Nyman,

The Draughtsman's Contract (1982)

Th[is] soundtrack [to the Peter Greenaway film] is . . . interesting:  the themes within it are based on eight-bar samples of Mozart which are repeated and improvised upon, to hypnotizing and evocative effect . . . [more]. 2 Aug 08

Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow (1970)

It IS dirty, grungy and sweaty.  It IS loud and in a sense, obnoxious and the sound quality IS muddy.  But future funkadelic groovers need to recognize that all of that IS deliberate . . . !  The title track . . . has an edge that rivals a razor blade. The rest of the album is no less edgy . . .[more]. 26 July 08

801 Live (1976)

The quality of musicianship on display here is fantastic . . . .  For folks who think prog rock was just about 20-minute pseudo-symphonies, 801 is a pleasant surprise. The songs are short to medium in length with great melodies and a real punch in their delivery here . . . [more]. 19 July 08
Roxy Music,

For Your Pleasure (1973)

[Be] blindsided by this lush, complex, and defiantly sexy sound . . . [h]alf from Brian Ferry's James Bondish presence, half from the experimental rock backing him . . . . "In Every Dream Home A Heartache" is simultaneously beautiful, silly, sexy, absurd, epic. It just dares you to not smile, and swoon . . . [more]. 12 July 08
Yeah Yeah Yeahs,

Fever to Tell (2003)

Singer Karen O . . . contort[s] her voice from a primal P.J. Harvey growl to the pre-orgasmic purr of Chrissie Hynde. Nick Zinner chops, slashes, and torpedoes his guitar around, across, and straight at O’s voice, while drummer Brian Chase delivers a suitably raw trash-can thump . . . [more]. 5 July 08
The Velvet Underground,

1969: Velvet Underground Live (1974)

[A]n essential document . . . . 1969: Live catches the band at a juncture in their career . . . [after] the departure of John Cale . . . .  Maureen Tucker was still around -- her inspired, primal drumming makes this recording such a delight . . . [more]. 28 June 08
Eric Dolphy,

Eric Dolphy in Europe, Vol. 3 (1961)

This is some of the best Dolphy. I may have only 20 years worth of jazz listening and collecting with my mere 3,000 pieces of mostly jazz LPs and CDs, but I got to dig REAL DEEP to find anything this hot. "Woody 'n You" and "In the Blues" are real intense . . . [more]. 21 June 08
Eric Dolphy,

Eric Dolphy in Europe, Vol. 2 (1961)

So the backup is not as strong as the Trane Village Vanguard recordings.  I wouldn't care if Dolphy was in the alley with a bunch of guys banging trash cans, this is some great playing. Dolphy's playing at this point was so strong that it would have to fall a long way to come down from 5 stars . . . [more]. 14 June 08
Eric Dolphy,

Eric Dolphy in Europe, Vol. 1 (1961)

This album was recorded live in Copenhagen in 1961.  "Hi Fly" is a 13-minute duet with Eric on flute and Chuck Israels on bass. It has great consistency, considering the sparse lineup. The version of "God Bless the Child" . . . [is] generally considered to be his best recorded version . . . [more]. 7 June 08

Dirty Mind (1980)

On this 1980 tour de force, Prince produced the template for most of his '80s albums: a mixture of lust and longing, synth pop combined with gut bucket rock and roll . . . . The gender- and race-bending Dirty Mind was nasty and freaky -- and you could dance to it. Still can. . . . [more]. 31 May 08
Jay Ferguson,

Thunder Island (1978)

It's what music is all about: escape, love, fun, heart, quirky melody, musical freedom. This guy not only played in Spirit and Jo Jo Gunne, but also jammed in the Joe Walsh circle, showing up on one of my other favs, But Seriously Folks, on keys. He is a Beatle in California clothing . . . [more]. 24 May 08
Larry Coryell,

Tricycles (2004)

Tricycles is a great example of what fusion can be at its best. Exciting, challenging, spontaneous, dynamic, powerful.  The blend of elements (the energy of rock, the subtlety and complexity of jazz) is nicely balanced. Best of all, the recording has all the life of a live jazz session . . . [more]. 17 May 08

In Rainbows (2007)

On the deliriously satisfying In Rainbows, Radiohead returns to a more straight-ahead (though subdued) rock sound . . . [a] simply a phenomenal, well-crafted, and exciting album. As soon as it's done, you're playing it again . . . [more]. 10 May 08
Hatfield and the North,

The Rotters' Club (1975)

This excellent 1975 album shows Hatfield & the North adopting a full blown Canterbury rock sound -- a nice mixture of quirky prog and jazz rock . . . .  All of the musicians are absolutely top shelf and the individual performances are breathtaking . . . [more]. 3 May 08
The Flaming Lips,

At War With the Mystics (2006)

Oklahoma City art provocateurs . . . channeling their messy psychedelica through a 70s funk scrim . . . elevat[ing] the ordinary to the sublime -- out-weirding Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd on a track like "Pompeii," and precariously balancing out on the astral plane on "Wizard Turns On" . . . [more]. 26 Apr 08
Charlie Christian,

The Genius of the Electric Guitar (1939)

An outstanding selection covering the whole career of Charlie Christian, the true inventor of electric jazz guitar. He is heard in studio sessions with the Benny Goodman Sextet, soloing backed by the whole Goodman orchestra and in an amazing rehearsal with Cootie Williams . . . [more]. 19 Apr 08
The Minutemen,

Double Nickels on the Dime (1984)

Minutemen's Double Nickels on the Dime is a masterwork of American indie rock, a sprawling explosion of terse, revolutionary rock & roll. Rifling through a kind of lurching punk-funk . . . trio poses philosophical questions . . . and gets drunk on "Jesus and Tequila" . . . [more]. 12 Apr 08
Steve Hillage,

Green (1978)

Green is basically a mix of hippie, funky, heavy and spacey rock. It works on different layers, keeping both ears and intellect happy . . . sophisticated bass lines, the imaginative drumming, not to mention the superb and highly distinctive guitar playing from Hillage . . . [more]. 5 Apr 08
Talking Heads,

More Songs About Buildings and Food (1978)

Choosing . . . Brian Eno to produce them, Talking Heads expanded their sound greatly for their 1978-released second album. While most associated Eno with hi-tech, electronic fare, he surprisingly brought out the more organically rhythmic side of the Heads' material . . . [more]. 29 Mar 08
Don Cherry,

Complete Communion (1965)

[T]wo long suites of interlocking Cherry compositions, and they're played with telepathic precision and explosive energy . . . . Cherry is in superb form, throwing off high notes like bright spears and twisting lines that suddenly rebound into the ensembles . . . [more]. 22 Mar 08
The Dukes of Stratosphear,

25 O'Clock (1985)

Listening to [The Dukes] is like sifting through a '60s psychedelia bin at a good used record store . . . .  The best of the era is re-created here with reverence . . . : Syd Barrett's childlike lyrics . . . , dissonant Sgt. Pepper strings & horns, Brian Wilson-style indulgences . . . [more]. 15 Mar 08
John Lee Hooker,

John Lee Hooker Plays and Sings the Blues (1961)

[T]hese tunes bristle with driving energy and ripple with the power of his shouted declarations. This is back porch music from the heart of the Delta, jolted to larger-than-life proportions by the electricity powering Hooker's guitar and by his own strong desire . . . [more]. 8 Mar 08
Harry Nilsson,

Nilsson Schmilsson (1971)

Nilsson's creative and commercial peak, this LP showcases the singer-songwriter's lighthearted worldview to best advantage . . . .   [T]here's a palpable feeling of comfort in both the production and the material. Nilsson's multi-octave voice was never so full of life . . . [more]. 1 Mar 08
Brian Eno,

Here Come the Warm Jets (1973)

This debut is a milestone not just for Eno, but for all rocking music. Listen to Fripp's furious guitars on "Baby's On Fire" and "Blank Frank." It's incredible, Velvet Underground-inspired rock in a scene that had forgotten what rocking meant . . . [more]. 23 Feb 08
Isaac Hayes,

Black Moses (1970)

On Black Moses, Isaac Hayes is at the height of his musical powers. He takes some classic song material and makes it his own, exploding the compositions, laying them out with confident care, and delivering to you the sort of soul that takes its time to good effect . . . [more]. 16 Feb 08
Billy Preston,

The Best of Billy Preston (1988)

Billy Preston is a master of the keyboard. A lot of people these days play like they've never even had a lesson; Billy plays like a pro. This album is full of upbeat, danceable songs that make you wanna get outta' your chair and groove . . . [more]. 9 Feb 08
Thelonious Monk,

Brilliant Corners (1956)

Few composers or improvisers can match the originality of pianist Thelonious Monk.  Quirky yet rigorously logical, Monk's playful but always purposeful choice of skewed melodies and interrupted rhythm patterns gave the bebop movement, and jazz in total, a new sound that was totally modern . . .[more]. 2 Feb 08
Stewart Copeland,

Rumble Fish (1983)

I have never seen the movie; don't really want to because the breathtaking music on this CD has created incredible images and moods in my mind for years. It is far from a simple "soundtrack CD" -- it is an incomparable percussive symphony bursting with energy and imagination . . . [more]. 26 Jan 08
John Coltrane,

Crescent (1964)

[Those] who focus exclusively on Trane's famous "sheets of sound" approach, his forays into long, modal improvisations . . . do him a disservice. He was and remains one of jazz's most lyrical players and Crescent . . . displays that lyricism in its most lovely and passionate forms . . . [more].

19 Jan 08
Robyn Hitchcock,

I Often Dream of Trains (1984)

The ghosts of cracked '60s British visionaries Syd Barrett, Vivian Stanshall, and Kevin Ayers float above this . . . sparse, surreal work that alternates moments of sublime, acoustic beauty with bouts of puerile, schoolboy humor . . . [more].

12 Jan 08
Kevin Ayers,

Bananamour (1972)

Here's another great, overlooked art-school-rock classic . . .  full of Ayers' odd lyrics and twisted tunes, and features a host of former Soft Machine mates and Island Records chums getting together to make some loopy, off-kilter rock'n'roll . . . [more].

5 Jan 08
Steve Reich,

Octet; Music for a Large Ensemble; Violin Phase (1980)

The pure tonal palette that [Reich] achieves with the 30-plus ensemble in the title [track] is incredible, and the complexity and business of the 4-part phase shifting of "Violin Phase" is not to be missed . . . [more].

29 Dec 07

Faust IV (1973)

For anyone curious about the Krautrock phenomenon of the 70s, Faust IV is one of the most satisfyingly listenable albums of them all, yet it still contains the defining avant-garde and rock experimentalism of the genre . . . [more].

22 Dec 07
Soft Machine,

Floating World Live (2006)

This is a killer live set [recorded in 1975], and Holdsworth's lightning-fast scalar runs, wide-interval leaps, and expressive note-bending over the band's vamps and composer Karl Jenkins' chordal changes . . . make Floating World a must-hear . . . [more].

15 Dec 07

La Cucaracha (2007)

[I]t's clear from their first studio album in four years that Dean and Gene Ween have lost none of their wonderful weirdness. . . .  If you're a follower of the church of Ween, it's as comforting as a heap of mashed potatoes and meatloaf, covered (of course) with a ladle of brown gravy . . . [more].

8 Dec 07
Thelonious Monk,

Thelonious in Action (1958)

This 1958 recording catches the quartet with bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik and drummer Roy Haynes on its home turf, New York's Five Spot Cafe. Griffin's gruffly compressed sound and high-speed, coiling lines are a fine foil for Monk's spare and pointed comping . . . [more].

1 Dec 07
John Coltrane,

Expression (1967)

[This, Coltrane's last album, calls to mind] the open-ended, electric blues and jazz of groups such as Cream, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and the many bands of Trane's old mentor, Miles Davis . . . [more].

24 Nov 07
John Coltrane,

Impressions (1961)

One of John Coltrane's great LPs of the early 60s . . . the moodiness conjures images of streets glistening with neon, steam rising from manholes, a lone couple stepping over a broken umbrella by the curb, breathing the air that only follows a rain . . . [more].

17 Nov 07
Cheap Trick,

Heaven Tonight (1978)

Kicking off with the crypto-anthemic "Surrender," Heaven maintains a level of quality in songwriting, performance, and production rare in a rock album; some lesser band would covet this as its greatest-hits collection. . . . [more].

10 Nov 07
Cheap Trick,

Cheap Trick (1977)

This album is raw, catchy, and utterly unprecedented.  Two pretty boy rock stars, one cartoon character, and one fat throwback from the 50s. It's too delicious to ignore! . . . If you could only own 30 rock CDs, this would need to be one of them . . . [more].

3 Nov 07
Philip Glass,

The Thin Blue Line (1988)

Listening to this work is like listening to an old radio drama, but without the artifice of a narrator telling us what to think. It is utterly compelling and truly demonstrates the power of the spoken word and the power of music . . . [more].

27 Oct 07

TNT (1998)

Rooted in jazz structures, the dripping electronic treatments on most of the tracks further distinguish the sound . . . .  While darker sides of psychedelic guitar emerge, the loungy low end sections evoke intrepid fantasies of isolation on the swankiest of desert islands. . . . [more].

20 Oct 07
Frank Zappa,

Hot Rats (1969)

Hot Rats is a far-cry from the da-da adventures and audio collages of the original Mothers of Invention. Mostly instrumental and filled with long jams . . . this slickly-produced album -- one of the first 16-track recordings made -- is filled with hummable tunes . . . [more].

13 Oct 07
Fred Frith,

Gravity (1980)

The delightfully eccentric time signatures drawn from Mediterranean, Balkan, and Scandinavia folk music prove remarkably consistent with Frith's own innovative style . . . .  Gravity remains the most concentrated dose of Frith's musical charisma, energy, and creativity . . . [more].

6 Oct 07
Phill Niblock,

Touch Three (2006)

[M]inimalism in the classic sense of the word . . . Niblock constructs big 24-track digitally-processed monolithic microtonal drones, and the result is sound without melody or rhythm . . . . Changes are almost imperceptible, and his music has a tendency of creeping up on you . . . [more].

29 Sept 07

Their Skies Are Beautiful (2005)

Orchestral vocal pop best described as The Left Banke meet The Zombies (Odyssey & Oracle); Cinderpop offer their second album, Their Skies Are Beautiful, a seductive and addictive melodic tour de force . . . [more].

22 Sept 07
King Crimson,

Starless and Bible Black (1974)

The precursor to the landmark Red, Starless includes such Crimson classics as "The Great Deceiver," the eccentric ballad "Lament," the menacing 11-minute "Fracture," and the sprawling title track . . . a cacophony of abstract noise guitar, chattering percussion, fleshy funk bass lines  . . . [more].

15 Sept 07
King Crimson,

Red (1974)

On this, the closing album of their "classic" period, Crimson possibly reached their peak, not only in composition, but in heaviness as well (if the latter is really all that important). On here, they sound like a cross between Black Sabbath and (some) instrumental Frank Zappa . . . [more].

8 Sept 07

King Crimson,

Discipline (1981)

The title says it all and the title track further demonstrates the concept as the band runs through a series of incredibly intricate, ever-changing guitar patterns and time signatures . . . .  But this record is not so much about skill as it is about transforming the complex into the beautiful . . . [more].

1 Sept 07
Brian Eno,

Before and After Science (1977)

The subtractive compositional process that removed all the redundant notes (sometimes including even percussion) leaves music not only free of clichés and boundaries but that forces you to imagine some much grander. Listen by yourself in a darkened room and let your mind wander . . . [more].

25 Aug 07
Lemon Jelly,

Lost Horizons (2002)

Inhabiting a world of almost limitless playfulness, [they] make the sort of brassy, beautiful downtempo music that leaves the listener desperately trying to suppress a goofy grin . . . that rarest of things: a focused, humorous, and exciting chill-out album that stands up to repeat listening . . . [more].

18 Aug 07
Miles Davis,

On the Corner (1972)

[Like] other musics whose methods involve slowly revealing their meaning through repetition, small variation, and funk without cease.  Though broken into tracks, it seems more like a single groove, swirling with every trend that was in the air at the time . . . [more].

11 Aug 07
Miles Davis,

Dark Magus (1974)

This album by the Prince of Darkness is most likely, the thickest, darkest piece of music that I own.  It sounds more like Miles recorded it in Hell than Carnegie Hall, as everything is dark and dense and almost possessing an evil quality.  And the band rocks pretty hard . . . [more].

4 Aug 07
Frank Zappa,

One Size Fits All (1975)

The pinnacle of his jazz-rock work of the early 70s, One Size Fits All boasts some of the most memorable songs of Frank Zappa's career performed by one of the most beloved Mothers of Invention lineups ever assembled . . . [more].

28 July 07
Robert Wyatt,

Rock Bottom (1974)

Robert Wyatt's 1974 masterpiece Rock Bottom is among the most layered, lovely, and luscious pop records ever as well as a testament to survival . . . .  Produced by Nick Mason, the cream of England's vital prog-rock scene contributed their most subtle, least-wanky efforts . . . [more].

21 July 07
Soft Machine,

Third (1970)

This release by Soft Machine is simply the best the many-membered band ever did. It is the zenith of their creativity, verve and execution . . . .  The band never sounded more experimental, unforgettable and soulful than they did on this album . . . [more].

14 July 07
Jimi Hendrix,

Band of Gypsys: Live at Fillmore East (1970)

Highlights include a stunning jam in a revamped "Stone Free," "Auld Lang Syne" as only Hendrix could have played it, a playful "Who Knows" with an improvised New Year's lyric, alternate versions of the guitar showcases "Machine Gun" and "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" . . . [more].

7 July 07
The Allman Brothers Band,

Eat a Peach (1972)

Far from being a stereotypical posthumous odds and ends collection . . . Eat a Peach is a treasure trove containing much of the Brothers' best work, and stands right beside The Allman Brothers at Fillmore East at the very apex of their stupendous body of recordings.  . . . [more].

30 June 07
Amy Winehouse,

Back to Black (2007)

[O]ne of the finest soul albums, British or otherwise, to come out for years . . . [Winehouse has] taken her inspiration from some of the classic 1960s girl groups like the Supremes and the Shangri-Las, a sound particularly suited to her textured vocal delivery, while adding a contemporary songwriting sensibility . . . [more].

23 June 07
Frank Zappa,

Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar (1981)

Guitar solos and nothing but. Meticulously culled and assembled by Zappa from live recordings made between 1979 and 1980, this three part set features some of the most dynamic and musical guitar work recorded anywhere by anyone . . . [more].

16 June 07
Frank Zappa,

Guitar (1988)

The sequel to Shut Up, Guitar is a two-part collection of improvisations by Frank Zappa, assembled from live recordings between 1979 and 1984. Zappa's bands from this period provides a solid foundation . . . [as] Zappa carves his "air sculptures" from fluid, lyrical guitar notes . . . [more].

9 June 07
The Beatles,

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

Before Sgt. Pepper, no one seriously thought of rock music as actual art. That all changed in 1967, though, when John, Paul, George and Ringo (with producer George Martin) created an undeniable work of art which remains . . . one of the most influential albums of all time . . . [more].

2 June 07
The Ohio Players,

Gold (1976)

The Ohio Players put up one of the wildest fronts of the 1970s funk bands: towering Afros, raunchy rhythms with guitars cranked as loud as horns, kinky album covers . . . . Their chanted catch phrases bridged the gap between threateningly tough and playground-ready . . . [more].

26 May 07
Miles Davis,

Kind of Blue (1959)

[T]he key recording of what became modal jazz, a music free of the fixed harmonies and forms of pop songs . . . .  [A] weightless music, but one that refused to fade into the background. In retrospect every note seems perfect, and each piece moves inexorably towards its destiny . . . [more].

19 May 07
Mocean Worker,

Cinco de Mowo! (2007)

Adam Dorn's strength in sampling remains apparent, and he finds new context for more samples than you can imagine, from mid-rangy old swing horns to piano loops [to] . . . tone-dripping flute leads . . . [more].

12 May 07

Skylarking (1986)

XTC's frothy, Beatle-esque concept album about birth, death, and the passing of the seasons is hardly soft-headed: its melodic inventiveness and lush orchestrations supports bitterness . . . , displacement . . . , and agnostic tirade . . . as often as it does the pleasures of sun and shower . . . [more].

5 May 07

Zombi (1978)

Stylistically, this [soundtrack to George Romero's Dawn of the Dead] covers a lot of ground (including a pseudo-country tune and some twin guitar harmonies that would not be out of place on a Thin Lizzy song) in addition to the usual Mellotron + funk bass Goblin trademark sound . . . [more].

28 Apr 07

Roller (1976)

This is a great album. Any fan of Goblin has to have this CD. It is very much in the '70s progressive rock vein and is perhaps not as dark and sinister as the vast majority of their other albums . . . .  Repeat listening only enhances the enjoyment . . . [more].

21 Apr 07
The Beatles,

Love (2006)

Love is a mélange of the familiar and obscure, all literally mixed together in one 78-minute audio collage which succeeds in reminding the listener just why the Beatles truly are, as Lennon put it, "toppermost of the poppermost" . . . [more].

14 Apr 07
Be-Bop Deluxe,

Modern Music (1976)

Excellently recorded and produced, this is Bill Nelson's peak with regard to his Be-Bop Deluxe period. If you enjoy other vintage 1970s recordings such as 10CC's How Dare You, Genesis' Lamb Lies Down and Foxtrot, Todd Rundgren's A Wizard, A True Star . . . give this recording a try . . . [more].

7 Apr 07
Guru Guru,

Dance of the Flames (1974)

Guru Guru are/were one of the wildest and most imaginative bands to emerge from the 1970s Krautrock scene and gave definition to the term. Fuelled by a combination of LSD and loud raunchy experimental music . . . it indeed incorporated many styles, from jazz to pop . . . [more].

31 Mar 07
Fred Frith,

Speechless (1981)

If you're uninitiated into Fred's solo works, this might be the place to start. This set has all of Fred's grandiose characteristics, such as his tensions of table guitars as well as some heavy riffs and deep bass lines. Daring avant experiments flow[ing] together  . . . [more].

24 Mar 07
Miles Davis,

Birth of the Cool (1949)

The first important leader date from one of jazz's most seminal figures and farsighted practitioners. Having made his reputation in large measure from playing with bop giant Charlie Parker, Davis confounded expectations when he embraced the "cool" arranging style of Gil Evans . . . [more].

17 Mar 07

Neu! (1972)

[This early Krautrock masterpiece] established a pattern of minimalist melodies and locked groove "motorik" beats that were to later exert a tremendous influence over left-field music, both in dance and rock . . . [more].

10 Mar 07

Ege Bamyasi (1972)

Led by the manic, freakish vocals of Damo Suzuki, Ege Bamyasi bends genres with aplomb, effortlessly including pop, rock, jazz, and psychedelia into one insanely eclectic and addictive stew . . . [more].

3 Mar 07

Soon Over Babaluma (1974)

The album has a fairly jazzy and ethereal sound compared with the more strident rhythms of Ege Bamyasi. It has the mellow feel of Future Days, but with more stylistic variety and musical colour . . . [more].

24 Feb 07

Future Days (1973)

The particular type of Krautrock practiced by Can is perfected on Future Days and is characterized by atmospheric keyboard and guitar parts atop hypnotic, percussive grooves churned out by the rhythm section . . . [more].

17 Feb 07
Amon Düül II,

Yeti (1970)

[E]merging from the radicalist commune movement of 1960s Munich, Amon Düül II injected their anarchic leanings with a force that drove the green fuse through the flower (power) of the "jam band" archetype . . . .  Yeti remains one of the essential records of this, or any other, genre . . . [more].

10 Feb 07
Amon Düül II,

Tanz der Lemminge (1971)

[I]f you are in the market for an audio adventure, this is it!!! One of the best bands from W. Germany in the early seventies had many releases. Some of them were awesome . . . but, this is the gemstone! . . . [more].

3 Feb 07

The Snow Goose (1975)

This is an outstanding, all instrumental album of prog-rock . . . .  Classical flourishes and music with an epic anthem feel to it emerge out of quieter space-filled passages to create perfect juxtapositions . . . [more].

27 Jan 07

Moonmadness (1976)

Moonmadness continues Camel's brand of progressive rock with a dash of jazz rock, yet is more synth-heavy than previous albums. The overall feel is a bit softer too, especially in contrast with [their first two LPs]. The softness is a holdover from the mellow Snow Goose album. . . . [more].

20 Jan 07

The Mollusk (1997)

Ween threw everyone a curveball as usual with The Mollusk. This album is much like it's multi-genre predecessor Chocolate & Cheese on the surface. But if you look deeper, you will find that there is a focused nautical concept to the album . . . a unique piece of modern prog rock . . . [more].

13 Jan 07

White Pepper (2000)

Ween's White Pepper . . . simultaneously salut[es] while . . . satirizing previous ideas, themes, concepts, and heralded forerunners of the medium. As such, Ween has taken upon itself to render its rendition of the Beatles' White Album alongside Sgt. Pepper's . . . [more].

6 Jan 07
Miles Davis,

Get Up With It (1972)

Even more so than other Miles Davis discs of this era, Get Up With It might take several listens before its many strengths become evident . . . . However, once you get the big picture, intriguing new details keep popping up even after dozens of listens . . . [more].

30 Dec 06
Miles Davis,

Sketches of Spain (1959)

Miles Davis's impact on jazz is almost incalculable . . . .   Sketches of Spain, with its emphasis on flamenco, rich orchestrations, and relaxed tempos, is certainly one of Davis's most mellow recordings (he even works out on fluegelhorn), and proved to have broad appeal . . . [more].

23 Dec 06
Oliver Nelson,

The Blues and the Abstract Truth (1961)

[A] rare marriage between an arranger-composer's conception and the ideal collection of musicians to execute it. The material is all based somehow on the blues, but Nelson's structural and harmonic extensions make it highly varied, suggesting ballads, hoedowns, and swing . . . [more].

16 Dec 06
Oliver Nelson and Eric Dolphy,

Straight Ahead (1961)

There are times here where Dolphy swings like a demented circus performer, and Nelson is (as usual), dripping with blues and soul.  The tunes are great and the performances milk every last drop of loveliness out of them . . . [more].

9 Dec 06
Lee Morgan,

The Sidewinder (1963)

Along with the title track, an unconventional 24-bar blues, the album's compositional standout is "Totem Pole," a minor Latin groove . . . .  This is the kind of relaxed blowing date, invigorated by thoughtful performances, that forms the backbone of the Blue Note catalog . . . [more].

2 Dec 06
Dexter Gordon,

Go (1962)

Brimming with conviction and poise, Gordon's gentle-giant sax carries itself with a sort of graceful edge that is difficult to emulate. He's always quick with a humorous quote, yet it always seems to fit just right . . . [more].

25 Nov 06
Isaac Hayes,

Hot Buttered Soul (1969)

By 1969, black artists were following rock's lead and recording extended epics. At the forefront of such experimentation was big bad Isaac Hayes . . . .  Heavily romantic, [these songs are] symphonic adventures . . . revolutionizing soul music in the process . . . [more]. 18 Nov 06
Curtis Mayfield,

Superfly (1972)

A morality tale set to funky grooves and plaintive vocals, Superfly is the zenith of Mayfield's socially aware songwriting, recounting the highs and lows of the thug life and the no-win ghetto game of hustling . . . [more]. 11 Nov 06
Brother Jack McDuff,

Down Home Style (1969)

Down Home Style was a party killer in the '70s and I wore out three copies . . . . Still one the best of the late '60s jazz organ funk albums out there, [with] McDuff greasy R&B grooves is at its peak . . . [more]. 4 Nov 06
Miles Davis,

Bitches Brew (1969)

Bitches Brew sent a shiver through a country already quaking . . . .  Over three days anger, confusion, and exhilaration had reigned in the studio, and the sonic themes, scraps, grooves, and sheer will and emotion that resulted were percolated and edited into an astonishingly organic work . . . [more]. 28 Oct 06
Miles Davis,

Sorcerer (1967)

This album, recorded in 1967, is the third by Miles's "second great quintet" with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams, arguably the greatest small group in the history of jazz . . . [more]. 21 Oct 06
Charles Mingus,

Mingus Ah Um (1959)

With the index of emotions captured, these songs nail why Mingus is possibly the most relevant jazzer for the 90s generation. He swings and shouts and hollers and somersaults. His tunes either induce foot-stomping with their intensity or reach for poignant yearning with their lyrical tapestry of orchestral colors . . . [more]. 14 Oct 06

Millions Now Living Will Never Die (1996)

The sonic environments are entirely woven from percussion, basses, and occasional keyboards -- all of it thrown through the blender of electronic sampling and manipulation at various points. Hypnotic, some would say, and an attempt at mirroring Steve Reich or even Can . . . [more]. 7 Oct 06
Sonny Rollins,

Way Out West (1957)

This is a remarkably confident album -- relaxed, swinging, thoughtful and deeply satisfying. And just in case that's not enough, the cover photo, featuring Rollins in Stetson and holster with his horn on his hip, is about as cool as it gets . . . [more]. 30 Sept 06
The Velvet Underground,

The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967)

If your taste in music runs to bouncy dance music, pop standards, or even what passes for experimental among the top 40 -- you might want to give The Velvet Underground a miss. On the other hand, if you have an ear tuned to the truly cutting-edge . . . give this band . . . a try . . . [more]. 23 Sept 06
Dave Brubeck Quartet,

Time Out (1959)

Boasting the first jazz instrumental to sell a million copies, the Paul Desmond-penned "Take Five," Time Out captures the celebrated jazz quartet at the height of both its popularity and its powers . . . [more]. 16 Sept 06
Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane,

Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane (1957)

Among Thelonious Monk's long stays at New York's legendary Five Spot was a six-month period in 1957 with possibly his most brilliant band, with John Coltrane finding fuel in Monk's music for his harmonic explorations . . . [more]. 9 Sept 06
Sun Ra,

Space Is The Place (1972)

This is truly what galaxies thousands of miles away must sound like. Any avant-garde jazz fan or just 50s-70s jazz fan in general must pick up this album . . . [more]. 2 Sept 06
Andrew Hill,

Point of Departure (1964)

This CD is true to its name. It is not a complete departure from tradition, and it is never content with staying inside the tradition. It is always on the point of departure from tradition, on the verge of new discoveries, new possibilites . . . [more]. 26 Aug 06
Dexter Gordon,

Our Man In Paris (1963)

Recorded in 1963, this record finds tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon at the top of his game during his Blue Note days . . . .  The rhythms crackle, the solos fly; Our Man In Paris is essential Dexter . . . [more]. 19 Aug 06
Modern Jazz Quartet,

Fontessa (1956)

While there had been excellent bands in the past that created a chamber-jazz genre, such as Red Norvo's trio, John Lewis's vision of a fusion of jazz and classical elements was distinctly original . . . [more]. 12 Aug 06
Duke Ellington,

Money Jungle (1962)

What an alliance: a legendary bandleader and composer, a pioneering bop drummer, and an unclassifiable (and often prickly) bass behemoth. It's no wonder that the tension between Duke Ellington, Max Roach, and Charlie Mingus is thick and extremely tangible, permeating this breathtaking 1962 album with passion and aggression . . . [more]. 5 Aug 06
Lucky Thompson Quartet,

Lucky Strikes (1964)

Few musicians are so misnamed as Lucky Thompson, a brilliant tenor and soprano saxophonist who ranked second only to Dexter Gordon as the greatest tenorist to come out of bop before the 50s . . . [more]. 29 July 06
Wayne Shorter,

Speak No Evil (1964)

Wayne Shorter's compositions helped define a new jazz style in the mid-'60s, merging some of the concentrated muscular force of hard bop with surprising intervals and often spacious melodies suspended over the beat . . . [more]. 22 July 06
John Coltrane,

Giant Steps (1959)

John Coltrane's first album devoted entirely to his own compositions confirmed his towering command of tenor saxophone and his emerging power as a composer. Apprenticeships with Dizzy, Miles, and Monk had helped focus his furious, expansive solos . . . [more]. 15 July 06
Cannonball Adderley,

Somethin' Else (1958)

Cut in 1958 for the Blue Note label, Somethin' Else is one of the all time great jazz albums. The personnel features Cannonball on alto, Miles Davis on trumpet, Hank Jones on piano, Sam Jones on bass, and the great Art Blakey on drums . . . [more]. 8 July 06
Charles Mingus,

The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady (1963)

This 1963 recording occupies a special place in Mingus's work, his most brilliantly realized extended composition. The six-part suite is a broad canvas for the bassist's tumultuous passions, ranging from islands of serenity for solo guitar and piano to waves of contrapuntal conflict . . . [more]. 1 July 06
Frank Zappa/Mothers of Invention,

Burnt Weeny Sandwich (1970)

[T]his is a collection of archival material from The Mothers of Invention, largely instrumental and featuring a lot of piano work from Ian Underwood.  The doo-wopping "WPLJ" leads off a progressive jazz-influenced set including the full studio version of "Little House I Used to Live In" . . . [more]. 24 June 06
Mahavishnu Orchestra,

The Inner Mounting Flame (1971)

Reissued with sparkling audio and exclusive photographs, this first, 1971, Mahavishnu album certainly vies for the title of the greatest of all jazz-rock recordings. Through spiritually questing flights of intense fury and exquisite quiet, it never loses its sense of inexorable force . . . [more]. 17 June 06
Thelonious Monk,

Misterioso (1958)

Monk could not only find new dissonances, but he could also find new meanings for dissonance, imbuing his sometimes elliptical, even minimalist, compositions with a joyous playfulness . . . [more]. 10 June 06
Cecil Taylor,

Unit Structures (1966)

Uncompromising and endlessly controversial, Cecil Taylor's percussive, intellectual approach to jazz composition, improvisation and piano remain largely outside the mainstream after more than 40 years . . . [more]. 3 June 06
Soft Machine,

Fifth (1972)

[A] great jazz-rock classic . . . [with] great playing from Hugh Hopper, Mike Ratledge, the late Elton Dean, Phil Howard, John Marshall, and Roy Babington . . . [more]. 26 May 06
Eric Dolphy,

Out to Lunch (1964)

Dolphy is an emotional shaman with a keen comic edge . . . and Monk's influence is clearly discernible in Dolphy's witty dissonances and vocalized blues phrasing throughout Out to Lunch! (his only Blue Note recording, completed shortly before his untimely death) . . . [more]. 19 May 06
John Coltrane,

Blue Train (1957)

Blue Train is one of those ineffable sound recordings that actually seems to capture a moment of perfect artistry . . . . With four Coltrane originals, including the haunting theme of the title track, and one standard, this recording showed Coltrane was becoming the complete package . . . [more]. 13 May 06
Wes Montgomery,

Smokin' at the Half-Note (1965)

Smokin' at the Half Note is essential listening for anyone who wants to hear why Montgomery's dynamic live shows were considered the pinnacle of his brilliant and incredibly influential guitar playing . . . [more]. 6 May 06
Thelonious Monk,

Criss-Cross (1962)

A great remastered version of one of Monks' masterpiece recordings. Every selection here offers something unexpected and the entire CD swings like crazy . . . [more]. 29 Apr 06

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