Elvis Costello: “Taking Liberties”
Like most collections of rarities, B-sides and previously unreleased tracks, there are a lot of great songs on this album (which crams 20 tracks onto one slab of vinyl) – but that doesn’t make it a great album. Costello’s fascination with American country music was already evident in 1980 – long before country was cool – but those tracks (“Radio Sweetheart,” “Black & White World,” “Stranger in the House”) just don’t mesh well with the more punk-infused New Wave cuts like “Clean Money,” which kicks off side 1. Still, there’s enough interesting material here to justify repeat listenings.
Bootsy’s Rubber Band: “Player of the Year”
The first time you listen to this record, start with side 2 – that’s where the funk is. In fact, the first three cuts have more than enough high-energy funk to balance out the slow jamz on side 1, which, to be honest, leave me kind of cold. Gotta let Bootsy be Bootsy, baby.
Sly and the Family Stone: “There’s a Riot Goin’ On”
I paid 33 cents for this record, and you can tell when you listen to it. It’s worn and battered, just like the jacket in this picture. But that only adds to the character of this classic album – dark, sparse, urban and tense, so evocative of the era it comes from.
Warren Zevon – “Excitable Boy”
This album contains the two Warren Zevon songs (“Werewolves of London” and “Lawyers Guns and Money”) that have rightly become staples of classic rock radio. Unfortunately, it also includes seven other songs.
Lou Bond – “Lou Bond”
I love this record now, but when I was young, I would have used it for second base. The lush orchestral string arrangements (and do I hear a flugelhorn in there somewhere?) threaten, at one point or another, to swamp each of the album’s six songs, and Bond’s guitar style of purposefully plucking his way through each chord (instead of giving it a good strum once in a while) gives several tracks an almost antagonistically unhurried feeling. But the vocals, though—Bond’s voice is so smooth, he can almost lull you to sleep with lyrics that, in parts, take an unflinching look at the social turmoil of the early 1970s. Without that voice, the whole thing would fall apart. But thankfully it doesn’t, and we’re left with a mellow, urban album that is one of the most soulful and heartfelt records I’ve ever heard.