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Music Madness Final

These two albums beat their opponents with roughly the same percentage (around 75%).   Knocking out any chance of the past 25 years being represented, our two finalists come from the 60’s and 80’s respectively.  It’s your call who is named the most favourite album of all-time, and the winner of March Music Madness.  Do you subscribe to the belief in the 60’s as a golden era?  Or are you more interested in the return of r&b to the world of mainstream pop.  Nearly all of the music we listen to today is somehow a reference of one of these brilliant and influential records that you love so much.  Here are the full vinyl copy tracklists for your reference and convenience.

abbeyroad

ABBEY ROAD – The Beatles

SIDE A    1. Come Together    2. Something    3. Maxwell’s Silver Hammer    4. Oh! Darling    5. Octopus’s Garden    6. I Want You (She’s So Heavy)

SIDE B    1. Here Comes the Sun    2. Because    3. You Never Give Me Your Money    4. Sun King    5. Mean Mr. Mustard    6. Polythene Pam    7. She Came In Through the Bathroom Window     8. Golden Slumbers    9. Carry That Weight    10.  The End    11. Her Majesty

thriller

THRILLER – Michael Jackson

SIDE A    1. Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’    2. Baby Be Mine    4. The Girl is Mine (feat. Paul McCarntey)   5. Thriller    6. Beat It

SIDE B    1. Beat It (feat. Eddie Van Halen)    2. Billie Jean    3. Human Nature    4. P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)    5. The Lady in My Life

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Music Madness: Final Four

Time to pit the four conferences against each other in two votes to determine the final winner of Music March Madness!  The first match-up is the winner of the Since 2000 Bracket against that of the 50’s/60’s Bracket.  

funeral

The Since 2000 winner is the #3 seed, Arcade Fire’s FUNERAL.  Their debut album is regularly a favourite from the decade, and hailed in a popular return of epic rock anthems with tracks like “Tunnels”, “Wake Up”, and “Rebellion (Lies)”.  It’s also the only Canadian-made record to make it this far, beating classic albums from Erykah Badu, The White Stripes, Amy Winehouse, and finally Radiohead to make it to the final 4.

VS.

abbeyroadThe winner of the 50’s/60’s bracket is The Beatles’ Abbey Road, and this should probably not surprise me as much as it did.  People love The Beatles.  You do, clearly.  And Abbey Road is classic in every way an album can be, from one of the most iconic band’s of the 60’s, with classic songs (“Come Together”, “Octopus’s Garden”, and “Here Comes the Sun”, to name 3 of them), and even classic cover art.  This 10th seeded record of the conference is to date The Beatles’ best-selling album of all-time.

VOTE!

The second match-up is between the winners of the 90’s conference and the 70’s/80’s conference.

thriller

Thriller is the highest seeded album to make the final 4, with the automatic #2 spot of the 70’s/80’s for it’s high-selling status.  Thriller continues to sell more copies than any other record ever made, and features Michael Jackson in a state that we all wish we could remember him best.  Forget what songs came from this album?  “Billie Jean”, “Beat It”, “Wanna Be Starting Something”, “P.Y.T.” to name a few.  Oh yeah, and the title track.

VS.

miseducationlhillRepresenting the 90’s is The Fugees’ soulful female rapper, Ms. Lauryn Hill, on her brilliant solo debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.  Not only is this one of the most commercially successful rap albums of the 1990’s, but it also signifies the return of soulful r&b from a woman who can freaking sing.  Refreshingly, she also has something to say beyond the predictable sexy r&b we were so used to in 1998.  To get to the final four, she has faced off against some of the best rock from the decade, including U2’s Achtung Baby, Weezer, Alanis Morisette, and most recently (and perhaps surprisingly), Nirvana’s Nevermind.  

VOTE!

Music Madness: Elite Eight

Today is one of my favourite days of the year because it is the day that the final four NCAA basketball teams of March Madness battle in two games to determine who will play the finals on Monday.  I have a bit of time between games, so it’s time to finally move on to the March Music Madness’ match-ups between the Elite Eight!  Basically, these are the finals of each conference/era, so it’s kind of a big deal.  What albums do you want to represent each conference in the final 4?

*UPDATE: These brackets will be open for a short time only.  Get your votes in here before 7pm PST on Apr. 8th, and make sure you come back soon after that for the Final Four!

For the Since 2000 Conference we have Radiohead and Arcade Fire.

in rainbows discin rainbows back

VS.

funeral funeralback

In the 90’s we have Ms. Lauryn Hill going up against Nirvana.

miseducationslicemiseducationback

VS.

nevermindslicenevermindback

In the 70’s-80’s Conference, I was shocked to learn that The Joshua Tree is going up against Thriller.

joshuatreediscjoshuatreeback

VS.

thrillerslice thrillerback

And finally, for the music of the 1950’s/60’s Conference, two downright classics in Kind of Blue and Abbey Road go head-to-head.

kindofblueslicekindofblueback

VS.

abbeyroaddiscabbeyroadback

Music Madness ROUND 1: 1950’s-60s Bracket

Finally we’re making it to our final quadrant, and can vote the albums of the 1950’s and 60’s through to round 2!  Polls for the 70’s and 80’s will also be open until Tuesday, March 19th as well, so go ahead and vote for them when you’re done this conference.  These here are voteable until Friday morning.  May the odds be ever in your favourite’s favour!

Kind of Blue – Miles Davis (1) vs. Otis Blue – Otis Redding (16)

kindofblueAnd the tournament is off with no fooling around.  This classic modal jazz album is the best selling Jazz record of all time, and is regularly found very high on best album lists from publications.  The composition and performance on Kind of Blue has become one of the most influential jazz albums to ever be recorded, inspiring other musicians of nearly every genre.

otisblueHere’s another personal favourite that made it through the draw.  Otis Redding’s gritty, soulful voice gives this record its heart, but it is stacked with musicians including Booker T & the M.G.’s, Isaac Hayes on the piano, and a horn section made up of members of The Mar Keys and The Memphis Horns.  Otis Blue boasts 3 original Redding-composed songs, “RESPECT”, “Ole Man Trouble”, and “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”, as well as covers of Sam Cooke, Smokey Robinson, and even The Rolling Stones.

Elvis Presley – Elvis Presley (8) vs. I Never Loved A Man the Way I Loved You – Aretha Franklin (9)

elvispresleyElvis’ debut record was released in the UK as Elvis Presley Rock n’ Roll, and was the first rock album to make it to number 1 on the Billboard – then stayed there for 10 weeks.  Even now, this album is regularly listed in the top 5 albums of the 1950’s, and is regularly in that list the one rock album in the midst of many jazz albums.  Classics from this record include “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Blue Moon”.

neverlovedamanAretha squeaked in at #9, being both a favourite of readers and an incredibly successful album, listed in the top 100 albums ever by both Rolling Stone and Q Magazine.  Rolling Stone also gave this album their #1 “Women Who Rock”… I don’t know exactly what that means, but it’s some form of high praise.  If you’re interested, I have plenty to add regarding this album over here.

A Love Supreme – John Coltrane (5) vs. Astral Weeks – Van Morrison (12)

lovesupremeOne of this great saxophonist’s greatest works, A Love Supreme is considered to be not only one of the greatest jazz albums of all-time, but is also included in many more general greatest albums ever lists, such as Q, Rolling Stone, Channel4, and NME.  Instead of a collection of songs, A Love Supreme is actually a complete suite broken into 4 parts, “Acknowledgement”, “Resolution”, “Persuance”, and “Psalm”.

astralweeksAlthough the album has never sold a ton of copies, Astral Weeks has achieved a sort of cult classic status and was always critically acclaimed.  In 1997, Mojo named the album their 2nd favourite of all-time, and it continues to rank well on 60’s lists, and all-time lists.  The song cycle is full of great Van Morrison classics, like “Beside You”, “Cypress Avenue”, and “Madame George”.

Revolver – The Beatles (4) vs. Time Out – The Dave Brubeck Quartet (13)

revolverRevolver tends to signify the Beatles turning point into a more electric rock sound, and is regularly a favourite in best album lists.  In 2002, a Rolling Stone readers’ poll voted this as the all-time favourite album, and in Rolling Stone’s own 500 Greatest Albums of All-Time, Revolver has the #3 spot behind only the #2 and #3 seeds of this conference’s bracket.

timeoutNamed for its use of less usual time signatures (such as 5/4 in “Take Five”, or 9/8 as in “Blue Rondo A La Turk”), Time Out became one of the highest selling Jazz albums of all-time, and the first one to ever reach the 1 million copies mark.  Certainly this Brubeck record makes nearly any top list of the 50’s, and sometimes shows up pretty high in best album lists too.

The Velvet Underground & Nico (Self-Titled) (6) vs. Are You Experienced? – The Jimi Hendrix Experience (12)

velvetundergroundWhen first released, the debut album from The Velvet Underground collaborating with Nico was a flop, both critically and commercially, partially due to a ban that was issued because of its explicit and controversial content.  Yet in hindsight it has become an absolute classic, influencing countless rock and roll artists since.  Spin named it one of their “top 15 most influential albums of all-time”, and Rolling Stone placed it at #13 in their 500 Greatest.

areyouexperienced

Jimi Hendrix Experience’s debut record has been called the greatest guitar album ever by both Guitarist Magazine and Mojo, and regularly places on best album lists that do not specify instrumentation, such as Vibe, NME, and Rolling Stone.  Unlike its competitor in these brackets, Are You Experienced? was an instant success, selling more copies in the US than any other album in 1967.  

Pet Sounds – The Beach Boys (3) vs. Songs for Swinging Lovers – Frank Sinatra (14)

petsoundsNot an initial success in terms of sales, Pet Sounds has gone on to be considered one of the best albums of the 60’s, and one of the most influential albums of all time.  Several publications have even given the record their #1 spot in best album lists, including NME, The Times, and Mojo, leaving it to likely be the best reviewed album of the 60’s.

SongsforswinginloversSongs for Swinging Lovers was a success from both a financial and critical point of view.  The album was #1 in both the UK and the US, but made the brackets through a draw, and is the lone representation of traditional 50’s pop.  This record boasts “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” which has become a Sinatra-sung favourite.

Highway 61 Revisited – Bob Dylan (7) vs. Abbey Road – The Beatles (10)

highway61One of Dylan’s most acclaimed albums, Highway 61 Revisited is full of influential, iconic blues-rock tracks that have been covered and remade numerous times.  3 of the songs from this one album made Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All-Time, with “Like A Rolling Stone” in their top spot, biased as that might have been.

abbeyroadAbbey Road nearly didn’t receive an automatic seed here, but was voted in by many fans.  This is another album that was not so successful upon its initial release, receiving mixed reviews from critics in 1969, is now sometimes cited as critics all-time favourite.  A Rolling Stone’s reader poll voted this as the favourite Beatles’ album.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club – The Beatles (2) vs. Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon & Garfunkel (15)

sgtpeppers

The iconic album, Sgt. Pepper’s has the #2 seed because it is the best selling record of the conference, from either the 50’s or 60’s, selling an estimated 32 million copies worldwide.  It also regularly places high on greatest album lists, including being given the #1 spot in both Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest, and a poll conducted in 1997 called “Music of the Millenium”, which called upon some of the most acclaimed reviewers of the UK.

Bridge_Over_Troubled_Water

This album represents a bit of my goofing up.  Since creating the brackets, I’ve realized that though Bridge Over Troubled Water was recorded primarily in 1968, the album wasn’t actually released until 1970.  Still, for the purposes of this bracket, we’ll consider it a 60’s record if that’s alright.  In 1971, this album cleaned up at the Grammy Awards, winning Best Album, Record of the Year and Song of the Year among others.  It has also been included in the top 100 albums of all-time by both Time magazine and Rolling Stone.

#12) Danger Mouse: The Grey Album, 2004

Everything about it sounds like a gimmick.  I mean, really: a cappella rhymes from Jay-Z’s Black Album layered over looped samples from The Beatles’ classic White Album (without permission from EMI) was destined to draw some kind of controversy.  And what an interesting controversy it was, bringing up the increasingly relevant questions of sampling, plagiarism, and ultimately, who deserves credit for what in the music industry.  
I find it a particularly good question to ask in the context of this album, considering that Jay-Z is not bound to make a clear reference of every quote he adopts into his rap.  Rap is all about reference.  There’s no liner note in the Black Album that says “insane in the membrane” is a Cypress Hill line, frankly because that would be ridiculous and unnecessary.  Don’t hear me arguing for any particular ethic on the subject.  I just think it’s an interesting question to ask – where is the line drawn when it comes to copyright? 
Personally, it’s difficult for me to see Danger Mouse’s work as anything other than an art form.  I recently completed a class where we all had to work on a creative project and present our art to one another.  A pattern I quickly noticed was how many of the students had chosen fairly rigid forms to create forced restrictions for themselves to work within, such as the sonnet form.  On the Grey Album, Danger Mouse is only allowing himself to work with two albums from very different artists, and the results are stunning.  Who would have thought that someone could mix Jay-Z with The Beatles in a way that would be even listenable?  Yet here, a whole collection of songs is completed, and for the most part, they work very well, meanwhile making an interesting comment on racism and mainstream pop-culture.  
I was amazed at how often I completely forgot that it was the White Album being sampled; the song felt so cohesive as if meant to originally sound like that.  Even songs that were originally awkward grew comfortable for me, like 99 Problems over Helter Skelter – two very strong tracks on their own.  Most of the listening of this album was on my iPod since my roommates aren’t huge fans of rap, and also because I got these new Sennheiser headphones that I wanted to spend some time with.  Consequently, I was doing a lot of transit riding and walking to the Grey Album.  Several times I felt a little like I was in a Black and White music video – making the album’s title even more appropriate considering Vancouver this time of year.  Seeing the city around me without color hardly took a stretch of my imagination. 
Yet, as grey as it was, I couldn’t help but lift my chin a little higher, walking to Jay-Z’s cocky rhymes, and sometimes brushing that dirt of my shoulder.  At one point I was reflecting on how I felt about Jay-Z regularly using a play on the (mispronounced) name of the biblical God, “Jehovah”.  I’ll admit, sometimes I’m a little uncomfortable with it, but I couldn’t help but notice how he contrasts pride with vulnerability by referring to himself by his birth name, Shawn, especially in December 4th. 

I will always remember this record as a high point of the Ohsies music in that it combined two of the biggest names in music of the decade (Danger Mouse also created Gnarles Barkley), with one of the biggest bands of the century, and is simply hard not respect.  A lot.