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Friday, Feb 3, 2012
As Coltrane said, “One thought can produce millions of vibrations and they all go back to God.” A spiritual jazz masterpiece is the 67th most acclaimed album of all time. Counterbalance has a listen.

Mendelsohn: John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme marks only the second jazz album we’ve encountered on the Great List. The last one we worked over was Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, and in the intervening weeks I’ve done absolutely no work toward learning how to listen to jazz. My attempts at doing so in the past were also a failure—I received a D when I took a Jazz class my freshman year of college. How hard could it be, I thought? All you have to do is listen to jazz.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the free-form expressionist tendencies that come skittering off this record, but if we’re going to talk about chord structures, odd time signatures, and modality, please don’t be offended when my eyes glass over and I go to my happy place, which, for your information, is a rock concert where all of my favorite bands battle monsters with the power of their rock and roll.

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Friday, Jan 27, 2012
Winter, spring, summer, or fall, all you have to do is call. Counterbalance will be there—this time, discussing the 66th most acclaimed album of all time, Carole King's 1971 megahit Tapestry.

Klinger: If you had told me when we started our mission to make sense of the all-time most critically acclaimed albums that we would be discussing Carole King’s Tapestry album within the first 18 months, I would have laughed in your face for so long that you would eventually start to cry. Then I would have felt bad for a minute, but then I would remember what I was laughing about and I’d start laughing again. After all, this is an album that appears to have almost no cultural cachet today. Just about every album we’ve covered so far has been the kind that rock geeks discuss in hushed tones, handed down with the sage advice that “this LP will change your life”. I can’t see where that is the case with Tapestry. Last year marked the 40th anniversary of Tapestry, and we haven’t heard a whole lot from the Rock Industrial Complex, which never misses an opportunity to commemorate just about any milestone that comes their way. (I’m cradling a 33rd Anniversary Legacy edition of Bob Seger’s Stranger in Town even as we speak.)

That said, Carole King seems like a very nice person and I find Tapestry to be a most enjoyable exercise in pop songcraft.  But you’re the one with the well-documented soft spot for finely crafted adult contemporary music, Mendelsohn. What’s your take on Tapestry?

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Friday, Jan 20, 2012
This week’s look at the all-time most acclaimed albums talks about the passion, and the 1983 debut from the pride of Athens, GA. Combien de temps? Depends on how fast you read.

Mendelsohn: Before we get started there is a word I want to discuss, which may explain all of the things I am about to say about R.E.M.‘s Murmur. The word is ohrwurm, and when translated from its root German you get “ear worm”. I’m sure you are familiar with it—you hear a song, it gets stuck in your head. Most ear worms come in the form of an insipid commercial jingle or throwaway pop tune. Those are the annoying ear worms that hook themselves, uninvited into our brains. On the other hand, you get the good ear worms, the one that pop up spontaneously and help forge a connection to the music. Those are the ear worms that bring you back to the music and create the need to hear more of it. In order for me to forge a lasting connection with any band’s music, I have to get ear worms (It’s not as gross as it sounds. It’s kind of like having B.O.C. fever with the only prescription being more cowbell).

That being said, my ears must be impervious to R.E.M. worms. Everything on Murmur has been bouncing off my head like tennis balls off a brick wall. This album is good, Klinger. I know it is and it certainly doesn’t sound like it was recorded in 1983 (what, no synth?), but I still can’t connect with it. I’ve been trying to find the space where this album will break through to my gray matter but as of yet, no luck. Suggestions?

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Friday, Jan 13, 2012
Can Joy Division’s 1979 debut make you feel the pleasures of a normal man? It's the 64th most acclaimed album of all time. We’ll share a drink and step outside for another Counterbalance.

Klinger: This isn’t the most profound revelation in the world, but I’m going to say it anyway. Since we’re started Counterbalance, it’s become increasingly clear to me that critics have an entirely different sense of criteria than the rest of the listening population. How else to explain Prince’s Sign o’ the Times turning up higher on the Great List than Purple Rain? Or Trout Mask Replica over pretty much any other Captain Beefheart album? And now we come to another example. When we were writing our installment about Joy Division’s Closer, I expressed to several people the difficult time I was having expressing my thoughts about this most baffling record. Every discussion ended with the other person saying, “Well, Unknown Pleasures is better anyway.”

Not having ever really listened to Joy Division over the years, I figured that the two albums were pretty much comparable, but that folks had their own personal preferences. Such is not the case. Unknown Pleasures is such a vastly superior listening experience that I had to go back and double check that I wasn’t just in a bad mood during Closer week. And no, I’m now fully prepared to join the chorus: Unknown Pleasures is better. QED, baby.

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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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