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Friday, Jan 6, 2012
Counterbalance gives Led Zeppelin's 1969 sophomore effort a squeeze. There was no juice, just the 63rd most acclaimed album of all time.

Mendelsohn: I think there’s been some mistake, Klinger. We’ve already talked about a Led Zeppelin. Sure, that one was a IV and this one is a II, but in my mind they are all the same. I like it, because it’s hard to turn Zeppelin’s music up as loud as you can and not smile, but this all seems a little redundant. The only difference I can see here is the absence of a certain eight-minute song that causes teenagers to slow dance at prom. I can’t remember which one it is. Do you want to argue about this or can we just reprint the bulk of whatever it was we wrote for Led Zeppelin IV and move on?


Klinger: As tempting as that is. I’m afraid I’m going to have to take exception with your characterization. As ambivalent as I was about Led Zeppelin IV, I really must contend that this is a considerably livelier listening experience than that dreadnought of an album. Maybe it’s because it’s not as fraught with the same level of importance that IV seems to carry with it. Maybe Page, Plant, Bonham, and Jones weren’t quite so eager to make a grandiose statement as they would be two years and one poorly-received third album later. But this album sounds a good deal fresher to me, and for that reason I can’t agree with your assessment.


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Friday, Dec 16, 2011
This week's Counterbalance is so swishy in its satin and tat, in its frock coat and bippity-boppety hat. Hunky Dory celebrates its 40th anniversary this week, and it's No. 62 on the Great List. Oh look out, you rock ’n’ rollers.

Klinger: Well, Mendelsohn, you’ve certainly gone out of your way to express your undying devotion to the Thin Sane Ziggy Duke, and the time has come to discuss Bowie yet again. This time, the album in question is Hunky Dory, the 1971 release that finds him standing at the turning point between hippie-fop-folkie and glam rock superstar. It clearly marks a sea change in Bowie’s career and in the development of ‘70s-era rock. But since you’re the superfan in the spangly unitard, I’m going to let you kick things off with what I’m assuming will be a huge outpouring of spewy effusiveness. Go.


Mendelsohn: Uh, yeah. Well. Thanks for putting me on the spot like that. This is almost as awkward as being set up on a blind date with an ex. I know I may have said some things in the past in regards to my love of David Bowie, and I stand by those statements, but I probably should have qualified them by stating, “I love David Bowie, except for his pre-Ziggy output, which is serviceable, and that rough patch from the ‘80s to the early ‘90s, which is not serviceable. Also, I’m not real hot on the Berlin stuff. I will watch Labyrinth anytime it comes on TV, and Outside and Earthling were fun for a minute. When do we get to those albums? (Answer: never). OK, it’s pretty much just Ziggy or nothing.”


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Friday, Dec 9, 2011
What you want you, well you got it and what you need, baby you got it, all I'm asking for is a little Counterbalance when I come home. This week at number 61, a 1965 classic from a legend of soul.

Mendelsohn: Listening to Otis Redding makes me sad, Klinger. It’s not a real heavy sadness, but more of a hypothetical sadness. In reality his music always puts a smile on my face because it’s hard not to smile when he breaks in with that amazing voice full of grit and electricity, backed by crack musicians who had just as much appreciation for soul standards as they did for the up-and-coming rock and roll. But then I catch myself thinking about the great things the Redding might have achieved had he not been killed. From there it’s all conjecture, endless what-ifs and what-might-have-beens, but listening to Otis Blue it’s hard not to wonder. There is so much potential, so many untapped resources that Redding just hints at as he runs through a tight set of soul standards, blues and rock covers, Motown hits, and original material. He takes it all in, pours himself into it, makes it his own, and then turns it loose upon the world. It’s amazing, Klinger, but through my amazement there is always that creeping sadness.


Klinger: While I share your vague sense of sadness, I have to say that I’m a little surprised that your emotions are getting the better of you this time. After all, this is hardly the first time that we’ve covered a pop star who has shuffled off the mortal coil. In fact, just about half of the albums we’ve covered so far have at least one member who’s currently playing the great gig in the sky.


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Friday, Dec 2, 2011
You know where you are? You’re in Counterbalance, baby! And Guns N’ Roses 1987 debut is the 60th most acclaimed album of all time -- take that one to heart!

Klinger: I can’t tell you how pleased I am that we are finally getting to Guns N’ Roses Appetite for Destruction. After all, according to Acclaimed Music’s rankings, once we get through this week’s Counterbalance, it will be 13 blissful years before I’m once again required to listen to Axl Rose on purpose.


As I’ve listened to Appetite for Destruction these past few weeks, one thought has occurred to me over and over: “Shut up, Axl Rose. Stop screeching in that upper register that sounds like a dentist drill. Stop burbling in that lower range that makes you sound like that dancing frog from the Warner Bros. cartoons. And for the love of God, if you insist on singing your eighth-grader lyrics, please stop punctuating them with pointless inanities like ‘Take that one to heart!’ It doesn’t make you edgy, Axl. It just makes you sound silly. In the name of all that is holy, please, Axl Rose, please shut up.”


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Friday, Nov 18, 2011
If man is five, then the devil is six. And if the devil is six, then the Pixies' Doolittle is 59. The 59th most acclaimed album in music history, that is.

Mendelsohn: This is the first time we get to talk about the Pixies? That strikes me as crazy—mostly because almost every rock band to form after 1990 did so with the intent of ripping off the Pixies. I mean, if you want to talk about influential, this quartet wrote the book in the late ’80s and early ’90s and they did it with perfect form: they released a couple of highly acclaimed albums, hit some moderate success, and then imploded before the big time came calling, only to return a decade later to reclaim their throne as elder statesmen (and woman) of alternative rock. I feel like I’m gushing like a teenage girl talking about an older boy she likes, but it’s hard not to gush about a record this good, especially since it just seems to get better and better. Am I gushing, Klinger? Should I just stop now?


Klinger: I am going to ask to you to stop gushing, Mendelsohn, but only so I can start. I honestly don’t know where to begin talking about this album, so I’ll start with this: the Pixies’ Doolittle is quite possibly the finest album of the 1980s. It’s certainly a cut above every other ‘80s album we’ve discussed so far (although I’ll count the votes for Remain in Light).


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