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Friday, Mar 1, 2013
Like the 118th most acclaimed album of all time, Counterbalance will lay us down. Sail on, Silver Girl...

Klinger: In the two-plus years we’ve been embarked on this fool’s crusade to discuss the most acclaimed albums of all-time (as compiled by the mathmagician over at the aptly named and highly addictive Acclaimed Music website), we’ve covered more than a few break-up albums, those wrenching chronicles of love gone wrong and valiant attempts to pick up the pieces in the aftermath. I’m pretty sure, though, that Simon & Garfunkel’s 1970 blockbuster Bridge Over Troubled Water is our first LP that focuses primarily on the break-up of a professional relationship—and certainly the only one to do so before the split is even officially announced. But references to Paul and Art’s impending dissolution are scattered all throughout the record in one form or another.

Like a lot of people, I’ve headed back into Bridge Over Troubled Water on those occasions when romance goes pear-shaped, so maybe that’s why it took me a while to realize that so much of it was based on a different kind of loss. But it’s also such a big-sounding album, with its lush orchestrations and slick production, that it’s easy to lose sight of the intimacy that’s at its core.

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Friday, Feb 22, 2013
You lively up yourself and don't be no drag. You lively up yourself, 'cause this is the other bag -- the 117th Most Acclaimed Album of All Time. Bob Marley makes his first Counterbalance appearance with his 1974 breakthrough.

Mendelsohn: Sometimes the Great List takes me by surprise. You round a corner and run smack into a goliath of an album that you never saw coming. I wasn’t paying too much attention and then all of the sudden, I’m face to face with Bob Marley’s Natty Dread, a well-loved behemoth of a record and the Great List’s first real foray into reggae.

Klinger: It is interesting that it’s taken us this long to get to any reggae, given just how influential the genre was to the music of the 1970s. By 1974, the year Natty Dread was released, everyone from Led Zeppelin and John Lennon to Paul McCartney and Elton John had let loose with facsimiles, reasonable or unreasonable, of those sunny island sounds. Still, I was surprised to learn that it was Natty Dread that beat out what I thought were more famous Marley discs like Catch a Fire or Exodus. But then what do I know—if I’m being honest, my own experience with Marley hasn’t really extended too far beyond the cassette copy of Legend that all college freshmen were issued back in the ‘80s. And it turns out Legend did a very odd bit of cherry-picking when it came to song selection, because no songs from Natty Dread are featured on that compilation. (A live version of “No Woman, No Cry” was used instead. Also, do they still do issue Legend to incoming freshmen? Mine was in a box with a travel-size deodorant and an ill-advised poncho.)

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Friday, Feb 15, 2013
The 116th Most Acclaimed Album of All Time would like to go to Spain or somewhere like that, with its two-tone bible and its funny cigarettes; its suntan lotion and its castanets. Counterbalance is waiting for the end of the world.

Klinger: “Now that your picture’s in the paper being rhythmically admired / You can have anyone that you have ever desired”. When the first line of the first song on your first album is a reference to onanism, it’s pretty clear that you’re out to make a statement. But such were the lines Elvis Costello drew. And not just lyrically—I can only imagine what it must have been like for critics to see the former Declan McManus on the cover of this LP, looking like a cross between Buddy Holly and Gollum. It’s no surprise that this album caught folks’ attention in 1977. Costello was willfully geeky in a world of blow-dried coifs and satin jackets, pumping out short punchy songs at a time when it seemed that excess reigned. I can certainly say that Elvis had a big effect on me—I suddenly realized that you didn’t have to look like Barry Gibb or Keith Richards to make music, and I got a reminder that great songs could still clock in at under two minutes. (Whether or not it was a good idea to hear Costello’s curdled views on romance in my formative years is another story.)

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Friday, Feb 8, 2013
It's like this and like that and like this and uh, Dr. Dre, creep to the mic like a phantom to deliver the 115th Most Acclaimed Album of All Time. Deeez Nuuuts!

Mendelsohn: Sometimes I find myself wondering what the record industry would look like had certain albums never been recorded. What would music in general be like had the Beach Boys not released Pet Sounds or if Nirvana never released Nevermind? I think Dr. Dre’s The Chronic is one of those albums that fundamentally changed the music industry is such a profound way that we may never fully understand the reach it has had over its now 20-year life span. And that’s why I’m a little surprised to see it sitting on the outside of the Top 100 looking in.

Klinger: That, Mendelsohn is a bold statement. Bordering on provocative. You realize you’ve just made a lot of rock fans shift uncomfortably in their seats—you know, the ones who start grumbling every time the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducts a hip hop artist. (“Grr,” they say. “It’s the Rock Hall. They should call themselves the Hall of Shame! Also, I am the first person to ever think of that insult.”) Frankly, I had no idea you were such a fan of The Chronic. I guess that explains why your ringtone is “The Roach”.

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Friday, Feb 1, 2013
Inside a broken clock, splashing the wine with the 114th Most Acclaimed Album of All Time. A 1985 cult classic is this week's Counterbalance. You'll never be going back home.

Klinger: Mendelsohn, I can’t tell you how pleased I am to be spending the week with Rain Dogs. The last time we talked about Tom Waits, just as we were winding down the Great List’s Top 100, I mentioned that I prefer this LP to Swordfishtrombones—lo and behold, the gods of mathematics have smiled down upon me once again. From start to finish, Rain Dogs is an absolute joy, a musical adventure featuring everything from sea shanties to country weepers to (relatively) straightforward pop songs that could be covered by Rod Stewart. To my way of thinking, it’s a more focused album than Swordfishtrombones, with a more precise ear for a melody and a more immediate impact.

Then again, that could be because I happened upon Rain Dogs first and that joy of discovery is clouding my perception. Waits was (and remains) a favorite guest on David Letterman’s show, and I saw Waits perform “Tango Till They’re Sore” and “Time” back in the day. I’ve been pretty well hooked ever since.

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