Home > Uncategorized > Favorite Musical Acts, Part 2 (LONG! YAY!)

Favorite Musical Acts, Part 2 (LONG! YAY!)

Gordon Elgart’s Book of Lists Presents

The Top 15 Small Sample Favorite Musical Acts.

(Unedited and proud of it. Spot any errors? Comment below!)

So what is a small sample? In order to be eligible for the list of all-time greats, a musical artist must have produced at least 4 CDs of superb, consistent quality. (Arbitrary? Yes. My list, my rules.) When someone asks me what my favorite album is by that artist, I should hem and haw and refuse to answer. In order to be on today’s Small Sample list, the band may have existed for a short period of time, or only had a short period of time that dominated my musical landscape. These bands might still be performing today, but not up to their old standards. If I couldn’t find four dominant albums by them, then they could be on this list today.

NB: If you are reading this list, and you know me, feel free to comment on any acts I have obviously left out. Yesterday’s They Might Be Giants discussion was premature, as they do have a place on list 3. Tune in tomorrow to find out where they rank (if I even decide to rank tomorrow’s list).

After each artist’s description, I include the album(s) worth checking out. So run out and get them! Many of them are out of print, so try eBay.

15. T Ride/Andrew W.K. – I am combining these because they are on the list for the same reason. One great 30 minute album. Andrew W.K. still has a shot to do more, but T Ride is long gone. Eric Valentine, the drummer, produced the most recent Queens of the Stone Age album, as well as countless other hit records. Both of these albums are just great windows rolled down, fist pumping, sing along albums. I will never top my mini-review of Andrew W.K.’s album as found in my Best of 2002 list, but I should state that his live shows contribute to him getting half of a slot on the list. The same could be said about T Ride. I saw them once, opening for Joe Satriani, and they just blew me away. And with song titles like “Rock and Roll Zombies From Hell” and love songs entitled “You and Your Friend,” they also have a wicked sense of humour. CHECK OUT: Andrew W.K. – I Get Wet and T Ride – T Ride.

14. Masters of Reality – Their first album is one of my favorites. It is a tight combination of classic rock influences, part Cream, part Led Zeppelin, all great. Masters of Reality made one more good album, Sunrise on the Sufferbus, and one album I truly hate, Welcome to the Western Lodge. Chris Goss, leader of this band, has gone on to a successful producing career, working with Queens of the Stone Age, among others. CHECK OUT: Masters of Reality (blue cover, not the remxed brown cover)

13. Screaming Headless Torsos – This band is a project of fusion guitarist John Fiuczynski, and together they did only one album. There is also a Japanese exclusive live album by them, and that is where they truly shine. Their concert at the Iron Horse in Northampton, MA on February 27, 1996 is the most amazing live music experience I have ever had. It was a late show, 10PM start, and by 10:45, the band had not shown up. They had gotten lost on the way. So finally they roll in and start setting up. No time for a soundcheck, so they just fool around with the knobs as they get going. And did they ever! They term their stuff jazz funk thrash rock, and that fits it to a T. The singer is like Ike Willis, and the guitarrist is like a jazzy Jimi Hendrix. It was music as epiphany, with multiple cries of “Lordy!” coming from the audience. There were about 35-40 people at the club, and even a couple of years later, strangers would walk up to me on the street and say “You were at the Torsos show! That was the best show ever!” And it was. CHECK OUT: Screaming Headless Torsos

12. God Street Wine – Out of the jam band scene in the mid 90s, this was by far my favorite band that never made it big. They were a New York outfit with two singers – one had a fairly normal pain singing voice, and the other was like Michael McDonald. They wrote some great songs, played great shows and would likely have been able to have continued success in a different era. They got signed to Geffen, dropped after one album. Put out another album on their own which sold so well, that they were signed again! And dropped after two albums. Just not jammy enough for jam band fans and too jammy for rock music fans. Listening to them reminds me of driving down state highways in Connecticut, wind blowing through my hair, trying hard to sound like Michael McDonald. CHECK OUT: $1.99 Romances & Red.

11. Chucklehead – just about every 3 months, on a Thursday night at Pearl Street in Northampton, I would see Chucklehead play. They were a Boston funk band – just a total fun jumping and down experience. It is all the aerobics I had ever done before Dance Dance Revolution. Their songs were silly and funky, and there live shows packed and sweaty and silly and funky. I have a definite fondness for them – they are a youthful pleasure that still sounds good today. CHECK OUT: Big Wet Kiss & Fuzz

10. Live – I checked this band out because Neal Peart of Rush mentioned Chad Gracey as a young drummer he really liked. So I bought their first album, Mental Jewelry, and was suitably impressed. When Throwing Copper came out, I bought it on the first day. Exactly one year later, it hit number one. And either the band changed or I did, because I never liked another one of their albums nearly as much. But then again, no one else did, either. They were a great live band, and may still be. They still record, and they are still younger than me. At one point I could play the entirety of Throwing Copper on drums, and wanted to start a Live cover band. Neither of those is true anymore. CHECK OUT: Mental Jewelry & Throwing Copper

9. Meat Loaf – This guy has probably been around too long to only rate a small sample, but the guy has made a career out of one absolutely tremendous album, maybe the best album in the 70s. It was produced by Todd Rundgren and performed by most of the E Street Band. Every song on it is a theatrical bombastic classic. He followed it up some 15 years later with a sequel, and although it had some of the same elements, it was not quite as good, although it is his second best record and made for a great concert, as he focused solely on material from the two Bats out of Hell. My favorite karaoke influence as well. I am always looking for a girl to sing Paradise by the Dashboard Light. Feel free to apply by email. CHECK OUT: Bat Out of Hell & Bat Out of Hell 2.

8. Fishbone – When funk rock hybrids were king, Fishbone ruled the genre. No one else was close to combining the sheer joy of performance and their thoughtful, often political lyrics as well as they did. Party at Ground Zero (by the way, it’s “the world will turn to flowing pink vapor stew” not “the world will turn to flobee papers too”) is still the greatest party song of all time, and may never be replaced. They were never the same band after the weird happenings surrounding a band member quitting to join a cult and the subsequent kidnapping of him by the remaining members of the band under the auspices of an intervention. Yes, you read that right. Anyway, in their prime, no one was better at what they did. CHECK OUT: Truth and Soul & The Reality of My Surroundings

7. Stone Temple Pilots – Heroin killed this band. There is no other way to say it. Sure, Scott Weiland is alive, unlike some of his peers, but he has been in and out of rehab and prison for the entire history of the band. So we’re left with two great rock albums and a lot of blown potential. I actually managed to see the band during their Tiny Music tour, which is a surprise, because outside of Axl Rose, no one has cancelled more concert dates. And it was a terrific show from a terrific rock band. I wish them all the best. CHECK OUT: Purple & Core

6. Primus – Most people think of Primus, and Les Claypool immediately comes to mind. OK. When I think of Primus, the same thing happens. To me, however, Tim “Herb” Alexander was just as important to the band, and when he was replaced, they never sounded as good. His drumming made the band for me. When they were together in the early 90s, they had so much bouncy energy. As they went forward their sound got louder and muddier and overall less interesting. It is a shame, as they were set up to be one of my all time favorites and not here on the Small Sample chart. CHECK OUT: Frizzle Fry & Sailing the Seas of Cheese

5. Jeff Buckley – I wrote extensively on Jeff Buckley recently. You can read it here. CHECK OUT: Grace

4. Toy Matinee/Kevin Gilbert – Here is another one who died too young. He did not drown, but rather died of autoerotic asphyxiation, which in layman’s terms means “jerked off with a plastic bag over his head.” This is not a recommended activity, but his estate was not successful in suing bag companies for not putting a warning on all plastic bags. “Warning: If you masturbate with this over your head, you are a sick fuck. And you’ll probably die, too.” Oh! I was supposed to be talking about his music!!! Anyway, he’s great. He is a proggy pop guy with this wry sense of humour and a brilliant feel for arranging music. Similar to Peter Gabriel in that every note feels in place. He made one album as part of the band Toy Matinee, which is one my favorite albums ever. He also made a terrific solo album, and died having left behind most of a magnum opus called The Shaming of The True, that was completed posthumously by his friends and associates. CHECK OUT: Toy Matinee & Thud

3. Tears For Fears – (this intro borrowed from a previously published article by me). The first time I heard “Shout” was on a radio show that played the British Top 30. I used to tape songs from this show that hadn’t become hits over here. Some of my favorites never did, like Jim Diamond’s “I Should Have Known Better,” Nik Kershaw’s “The Riddle” and Grandmaster Melle Mel and the Furious Five’s :”Step Off.” But then there was Tears For Fears. They eventually became huge over here, but not until after my obsession had begun. I had a tape with Songs From the Big Chair on one side and The Hurting on the other. Flip, flip, flip, flip. I think I broke my auto reverse! (new material from me) It was all downhill after that. Roland and Curt made onoy one more album together before Roland made “Tears For Fears” albums that were essentially solo works. They would easily be on my All time favorite chart if they had managed to stay together longer. CHECK OUT: The Hurting and Songs From the Big Chair.

2. Living Colour – It’s a shame this group is only remembered for Cult of Personality. MTV ran that video over and over and over again, and then left them behind for the next big thing. Corey Glover’s powerful voice, Vernon Reid’s crazy guitar solos and the strong bass playing of Muzz Skillings and then Doug Wimbish were all just fronts for my favorite rock drummer, Will Calhoun. I tried to imitate his style, his feel, his kinda funky hard rock thing. I went to a clinic he gave at a drum shop and I was just so blown away by how easy some of the stuff was that I thought was so hard. And then I went home to practice it, and I just couldn’t make it sound right. The whole package was a hard charging, in your face rock band with fierce lyrics and a great dynamic presence. They are on the comeback trail, playing small clubs. I saw them a couple of years ago and recommend the experience highly. They are now seasoned and doing it for fun and not the record sales. CHECK OUT: Time’s Up & Stain

1. Jellyfish – They were retro before retro was cool. They had a modern throwback sound. They sounded like a bouncy Beatlesque Queen cover band. They were an “overprodcued” band that sounded great live. They broke up before they had the chance to come close to remotely sucking. Andy Sturmer (singer/drummer/songwriter/genius) has gone on to write songs for the Japanese pop duo Puffy (Ami and Yumi). Roger Manning has gone on to many other things, none of which I have ever heard, because I am an Andy junky. There is a four disc box set, two discs of demos and two discs live, for a band that only did two albums. That is two discs for each album. I traded in a bunch of CDs for it a few months back, and it sits next to my computer constantly. How I can get so much enjoyment out of a band that did so litle, I will never understand. CHECK OUT: Bellybutton & Spilt Milk

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