Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Top Ten Openers - Nick's List

            A while back, a few of us Escapee’s decided to tune our readers in on our Top Ten Best Album Opening Tracks (a mouthful) and so far you’ve gotten two incendiary lists.  After reading the two entries I thought of how cool it would be to have a mixed CD of nothing but those glorious opening tracks.  It’d make for a helluva mix.  One that never let’s up to say the least, but therein lies the problem. 
As an avid music collector with a CD collection nearing the 700 mark (with no signs of slowing down) I find it a wonderful thing to pop in a CD (or download it to iTunes) only to have my nipples pinched with the sheer awesomeness of the opening track – a track that can easily make or break an album’s authenticity.  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve picked up some random CD in some random store on some random whim and been blown away by the first chords of the first track.  Ever since that started happening, I’ve discovered some of my (now) favorite bands:  Kings of Leon, Mumford & Sons, Band of Horses, Fleet Foxes, Vetiver, My Morning Jacket . . . to name a few.
Getting back to our killer, opening track mix CD; the opening track should be the window into the rest of the album.  Hands down.  Albeit that’s not always the case; Weezer’s Raditude album contains my favorite Weezer song, (If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To, which almost made this list, but fell short due to the climactic fact that the rest of the album doesn’t do much for me.  That being said, I had a hard time compiling my list – let’s blame the lateness on that – because there are far more than ten “best album opening tracks.”  So I widdled my list down with a second set of criteria and came up with this:  Top Ten Best Album Opening Tracks That Preface A Spectacular Album In Its Entirety.  Whew.  One final note; I truly believe both The Rolling Stones’ Sympathy For The Devil and Bob Dylan’s Hurricane have a place on my list (both criteria), but I’m leaving them off for two reasons:  1.  No one in the Hatch, aside from me of course, appreciates either artist and 2.  I already used both tracks on my previous playlist and I hate to overdo things.  So without further ado . . .

Top Ten Best Album Opening Tracks That Preface A Spectacular Album In Its Entirety – Nick’s List

10.  Ladies And Gentleman We Are Floating In Space – Spiritualized                           
       (Ladies And Gentleman We Are Floating In Space, 1997)
I found this album on Amazon about 10 months ago and really dug the cover, laid out like a prescription bottle and much like a bottle of pills the album will raise you up before crashing you back down.  I’m happy to report that the reviews on Amazon are/were correct.  The entire album flows with the rhythm of someone not entirely in control of themselves and that’s what I like about it.  Like a dream, this track invites you into a world where anything can happen and allows your mind to explore.
9.            Pagan Baby – CCR
                (Pendulum, 1970)
 I had to get some Creedence in here and truthfully speaking, any opening track on any one of their six albums (I know they have seven albums, but rarely do I count Mardi Gras in the mix) could’ve made the cut.  I decided to be different though (WILD CARD!) and go with a slightly lesser known track.  With the choppy licks of the opening guitar and the howling wail of John Fogerty at the end, CCR takes us on a ride that lets us know up front that Cosmo and Willy ain’t there.  And they ain’t needed.
8.            Victoria – The Kinks                     
(Arthur: Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire, 1969) 
It’s hard for me to talk about good music and not mention Ray Davies’ and the boys.  I love a good concept album and The Kinks began to settle into their illustrious string of concept albums with this song.  With each rising buildup of “Vic-t-ooo-rrr-ii-AAAAA!!!!!!!!” the momentum in every fiber of my being escalates like a virgin feeling the moist gloriousness between a girl’s legs for the first time.  I knew I was hooked on The Kinks the first time I heard this song.  Fantastic.
7.            Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 – Bob Dylan           
                (Blonde On Blonde, 1966)
First off, I have no idea what the title means.  So don’t ask.  I hesitate to even speculate what the numbers refer to, but that’s neither here nor there.  What is here though is the barroom jangle of the piano behind Dylan crying, “ . . . Everybody must get stoned . . .” yet it’s not clear if he’s talking about “Jackie Treehorn treats objects like women, man” or “You are entering a world of pain”, but what is clear is that regardless of which direction you’re looking at it, “ . . . I would not feel so all alone / Everybody must get stoned.”  This valiant album by my favorite shitty voiced singer is full of greatest hits in my opinion, but then again, for me, this song is what started it all.
6.            Thunder Road – Bruce Springsteen                  
                (Born To Run, 1975)
I’d be an asshole for not including this classic on my list.  It’s my ringtone for crying out loud.  Driving us into my favorite Boss album, this track carried me through long nights delivering pizza’s for shitty tips.  I particularly enjoy the imagery conveyed in the lyrics, “ . . . Well I got this guitar / And I learned how to make it talk / And my car’s out back / If you’re ready to take that long walk / From your front porch to my front seat / The door’s open but the ride ain’t free . . .  With an epic ending impending throughout the 4:50, this song has catapulted the album that made Springsteen a star.  And it gets me every time.
5.            Red Morning Light – Kings of Leon                 
                (Youth and Young Manhood, 2003)
Much like I said for CCR, any opening track from the five KoL albums could sit comfortably on this list, but I chose this one for its significance towards my enjoyment of KoL.  I read about the Kings in Q Magazine, or maybe Uncut, either way it was British, and the writer had nothing but good things to say about this young band’s debut album, so when I saw it on a Target CD rack for $9.99 I thought, what the hell?  I was really getting into Southern Rock at the time, so why not give these dudes a try?  Red Morning Light widened my eyes and made my heart pound.  I could barely make out what Caleb was singing about, but I knew I had stumbled upon the next kickass, award winning band in rock-n-roll.  I was telling all my friends, my family, etc. but no one paid me much mind.  Not until they won Record of the Year six years later.
4.            More Than A Feeling – Boston                        
                (Boston, 1976)
When I watched George Clooney mentally fly over the desert in The Men Who Stare At Goats while this track blasted through the air, I was like a born-again virgin getting laid for the second first time.  Always avoiding Boston on the radio due to the endless amount of airplay, I developed a new found respect to the aura of the band’s debut album.  Nearly every track is included on the Greatest Hits album and the reason for the ones that aren’t is due to lack of disc space.  
3.            Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-IV) – Pink Floyd        
                (Wish You Were Here, 1975)
I’m taking a chance on this one as it is in fact the first part of two songs; the second part of course closing the album.  It does and doesn’t fulfill my criteria, but I’m okay with it.  While not my favorite Floyd album, nor even my second fav, this album stands alone in its atmospheric awesomeness as it pays homage to one of the founding members of the band, Syd Barrett.  Syd didn’t much care for it, but fans did and while not as popular as Dark Side Of The Moon, Wish You Were Here is one of the most well received Floyd albums.
2.            Is There A Ghost – Band of Horses              
               (Cease To Begin, 2007)
The first time I heard this track was riding along I-75 in the beautiful Florida sunlight.   I’ll admit that the lyrics aren’t much in this song, but it makes my #2 because of the slow, dreamy start that soon erupts with an epic guitar burst.  The vibe pulsates through the speakers and transcends all things flexible; time, space, mood; and furiously, joyously drops us into a valiant sophomore effort by one of my favorite new bands. 
1.            Overture – The Who                  
                (Tommy, 1969)

I literally cannot listen to this song, any portion of it, and not want to listen to the rest of
Tommy.  The melody, the story, guitar, the drums, the soft little bit of lyrics . . . this song is a prologue to the greatest rock opera ever written.  When we first spoke about this post, this song immediately shot to the “Top of the Pops” for me.  It is an instrumental, for the most part, but the other 23 tracks more than make up for it.  Besides, I like instrumental tracks.  I’m willing to bet I stand alone in this venture, but I don’t care.  Pure genius was behind the music of this album.  Don’t believe me?  I challenge you to name me one other kickass, rocking sonofabitch song about pinball.  Pinball.

              There we have it.  My Top Ten Best Album Opening Tracks That Preface A Spectacular Album In Its Entirety, but not without a few Honorable Mention shout-outs, after all, this list wasn’t easy.

Honorable Mention:

11.          Fordlandia – JoHann JoHannsson              
              (Fordlandia, 2008)

              Another instrumental here; an instrumental in a true sense inasmuch as iTunes considers it a classical piece.  I don’t disagree.  It’s a remarkable album and this opening title track is reminiscent of the hopes and dreams of a lost civilization on the brink of destruction with only one way out . . . and then finding it.

              12.          The Man – Patto
                              (Patto, 1970)     

              You’ll recognize this song from the trailer to Observe and Report.  The self-titled album is a lost classic among the 70s and barely available on Amazon ($24.00, pssh), but I found it for a mere $7.99 on iTunes a good while back and have been enjoying it ever since.  It’s got a raw, rocking sound to it and unfortunately only one of two albums (don’t quote me).  I wish these guys would’ve made it in the underground circles.  After three minutes and fifty seconds and for nearly three minutes more, this song proves they had the chops.

              13.          Buttermilk Biscuits – Sir Mix-A-Lot            
                              (Swass, 1988)

              Back me up on this, Pat.  This song hippity-hopped into my lifescape at an early age.  I don’t know who is actually rapping in this song, but it literally sounds like he inhaled about two dozen helium balloons before he started.  And you know what?  It works.  For an extra added bonus, check out the title song to this album and tell me it doesn’t remind of you of a certain pop song from a year or two ago.  I won’t believe you. 

              14.          Mambo Sun – T. Rex 
                              (Electric Warrior, 1971)

              This song makes me feel good every time I listen to it.  I don’t know why and I don’t care.  Shut up.

              15.          And It Stoned Me – Van Morrison   
                              (Moondance, 1971)

              I’m going to close it out with a good ‘ol Irish crooner reminding me of my country days back where I grew up.  Moondance is a profound album and definitely one of my favorites. 

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