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Friday, Jul 19, 2013
White collared conservative flashing down the street, pointing their plastic fingers at me. They're hoping soon my kind will drop and die, but I'm gonna wave my freak flag high, high—listening to the 130th acclaimed album of all time.

Mendelsohn: Long ago, back when we first started this little experiment, I had given Jimi Hendrix a pass, carte blanche, on any and all material. He can do no wrong and I stand by that, Klinger. So please, don’t take what I’m about to say as a repudiation of that previous statement. What I’m about to say is for the sake of argument.

Out of the entire Hendrix oeuvre, I tend to simply ignore Axis: Bold as Love. I don’t find it nearly as compelling as Are You Experienced? or Electric Ladyland. Axis has some great material—I mean, c’mon, it is Hendrix—but the overall package is lackluster and held together by studio trickery. There is a great sense of exploration and experimentation that permeates Axis, as Hendrix and Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell look for solid, songwriting footing, but I think the push by the band to get this album out to fulfill its recording contract really hurt the finished product. I suppose it’s easy for me to say that type of thing with 25 years of hindsight. As a follow-up to Are You Experienced? the listeners in 1968 might have found the record much more compelling than I ever will.

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Friday, Jul 12, 2013
Too many bottles of this wine we can't pronounce. Too many bowls of that green no lucky charms. Super rich kids -- and the guys from Counterbalance -- listening to the (new) 125th most acclaimed album of all time. Frank Ocean’s surprisingly recent album is next.

Klinger: OK, for the folks out there who are paying attention: Our mathematical overlord at the Acclaimed Music website has made updates to the Great List. Some records have taken a trip up the list, while others have taken a tumble. It’s pretty exciting for music list lovers everywhere (seriously, check it out—Revolver overtook Pet Sounds at the No. 1 spot!), but it means that we have to do a little administrative futzing about, since some there are albums that we didn’t get to, starting with this one. In fact, Frank Ocean’s channel ORANGE hadn’t even been released when we started this Counterbalance project back in 2010. These are crazy, crazy times, Mendelsohn.

But now here we are, looking at a brand new album, from our perspective. In fact, we’ve been so fully ensconced in this fools’ crusade that I’ve never even had time to fully investigate this disc. I had certainly heard all of the journalistic hubbub about it, with everybody saying that Ocean was a bold new voice in R&B, but I was probably too busy listening to Kraftwerk to check it out. Now that I have, I think I can say with relative certainty that channel ORANGE is a very big statement indeed—just the kind of thing that classic albums are made of. Whether it’s capable of going the distance in the public consciousness remains to be seen. That’s my gut reaction, anyway. Mendelsohn?

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Friday, Jun 28, 2013
Day of judgement, God is calling. On their knees the war pig's crawling, begging mercy for their sins. Satan laughing spreads his wings, probably listening to the 135th most acclaimed album of all time. Oh lord yeah!

Klinger: I was just a babe in arms as it was happening, but it seems safe to say that as the 1960s turned into the 1970s, rock critics on the whole got to be more than a little bummed out. Their hippie dream hadn’t quite panned out. The old guard bands were either breaking up, keeling over or seemingly starting to fizzle. Even their beloved drugs seemed to have a hidden dark side. This could explain why they had such a grumbly attitude about the up-and-coming bands that were springing up at the dawn of the decade.

We’ve discussed how Led Zeppelin took their lumps among critics, and now the Great List has given us another group who seem to have taken years to see a rehabilitation of their image, Black Sabbath. And all I can say is thank God that has happened, because let me state for the record: I love Paranoid. Unequivocally and unabashedly, without qualification or clarification. My previous experience with Black Sabbath had sadly only skimmed the surface, so I thank the Great List for making me dive in and pay attention to this album.

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Friday, Jun 21, 2013
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Is this the 134th most acclaimed album of all time? Apparently so. Scaramouche, scaramouche, will you do the fandango? That’s up to you. Queen’s 1975 blockbuster is this week’s Counterbalance.

Mendelsohn: It’s confession time, Klinger. My knowledge of Queen’s music comes mostly from their Greatest Hits albums. I know—it’s shameful. As a result, I had no real knowledge of Queen’s A Night at the Opera, and was not prepared for how absolutely ridiculous this record is from start to finish. Now before everyone gets out the pitchforks, let me be frank—I like the ridiculousness of this record. There is a refreshing irreverence in Queen’s vaudevillian approach to rock ‘n’ roll. I’m not really sure what I was expecting when I dropped the needle on this album—aside from Freddie Mercury’s amazing vocal work and Brian May’s exquisitely overdubbed guitar work—but what I found is hard to describe using the rock ‘n’ roll lexicon.

Maybe “Bohemian Rhapsody” should have been a pretty good indication of what I might find, but even then, that song is hardly representative of this audacious work. 134 Counterbalances in and for the first time, I’m at a loss for words.

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Friday, Jun 14, 2013
The King is gone, but he’s not forgotten. This is the story of the 133rd most acclaimed album of all time. Is there more to the question than meets the eye? This week’s Counterbalance investigates.

Klinger: It’s almost hard to believe that we’ve only had two opportunities to talk about Neil Young, considering how he was a constant source of fascination to critics back in the 1970s and then almost shorthand for artistic integrity when he became a standard bearer in the 1990s. But here we are with his 1979 live experiment Rust Never Sleeps, which to me might somehow be, on the surface anyway, more representative of Young’s overall output than either of the two albums we’ve covered previously. In its right down the middle mix of solo works and Crazy Horse jams, we get the sense of the two sides of Neil Young—cranky acoustic troubadour and cranky electric thud-rocker.

Clearly, there’s a lot to unpack with this most unusual project, from its in-concert setting to its songwriting to the way Neil Young attempts to find his place as an elder statesmen/boring dinosaur (depending on which side of the line you stood) in the late ‘70s. I know you’ve expressed a preference for electric Neil in the past, so I’m eager to hear how you have made your way into this double-sided piece of wax.

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