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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Musically, in good company

    In the world of iTunes, albums can sometimes be an afterthought. When you can mix and match songs from all across the musical spectrum, the achievement of putting together 15 or so good songs gets a little lost. Even the albums with the most spectacular songs in existence are often accompanied by at least a few duds. That’s why it’s so pleasant to come across an “all good” album. Though maybe they don’t contain the greatest music in existence, these albums are at least pleasing (and at best impressive) through every song. Listed below are a few of these rare and enjoyable compositions.

    Santana — ‘Supernatural’

    Santana’s first No. 1 album since the band’s debut, this 1999 gem was derided by some critics for its commercialism and plethora of guest stars. Their points are well taken, but they miss the fact that the songs are all quite good. Everyone who grew up in the ‘90s remembers “Smooth,” and to a lesser extent “Maria, Maria.” The deeper tracks are all up to par, as well.

    The non-guest songs like “(De La) Yaleo” and “Migra” are the workhorses of the album, cracking with the smooth Spanish electric guitar stylings of Carlos himself. Santana also highlights his ability to play well with others. Lightweights like Dave Matthews and Rob Thomas are supported nicely, and good artists like Cee-Lo and Mexican group Maná are raised to new heights. And let’s not forget the final track “The Calling,” featuring a duel of guitars with Eric Clapton that sounds heavensent.

    “El Farol” and “Primavera” are probably the weaklings in the pack, but they are enjoyable in their own way, leaving this album dud-less.

    Steve Winwood — ‘Back in the High Life’

    Dennis Reynolds from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” would agree that Back in the High Life is good from start to finish. If you’re willing to suspend your disbelief and yacht it up a bit, Winwood’s brand of rock is dreamily pleasant.

    “Higher Love” is as energizing as “Back in the High Life Again” is wistful, though perhaps both tracks are tinged with a little bit of smiling sadness. “Take It As It Comes” and its darker companion “Freedom Overspill” rock a little harder if you’re starting to fall asleep. The secret star on the album may be “Split Decision,” an almost jazzy rock number that any cool dude could walk down the street to.

    This probably isn’t the album for a Mac or a Charlie, but for the less spastic Dennises of the world, Back in the High Life won’t ever disappoint.

    Steely Dan — ‘Two Against Nature’

    The Album of the Year Grammy winner in 2000 (famously upsetting the rise of one Marshall Mathers), Steely Dan’s Two Against Nature deserves its award if only for its excellent mechanics.

    Always fanatical about the nuts and bolts of music making, the duo from Anondale’s craftsmanship is on full display in this collection of excellent songs. Donald Fagen’s wryly mad lyrics are also bouncing around from start to finish, from the tale of driving an unwanted wife insane in “Gaslighting Abbie” to a rakish young man’s gentle cajoling of his young girlfriend to bring another into the bedroom in “Janie Runaway.” The subject matter is excellently wordsmithed, as well. “Sizzling like an isotope,” a lyric from “Almost Gothic,” may be the most apt description of infatuation ever.

    “Negative Girl” may be the runt of the litter, but on another album it would probably the star. That just speaks to the artistry of this album, on which there is certainly not a dud in sight.

    Jethro Tull — ‘Thick As A Brick’

    Admittedly, this is kind of cheating. Thick as a Brick has all good songs because it has only one song and that song is good. A concept album from the ‘70s, all 45-some minutes of Thick As A Brick is a single, epic song.

    For the sake of fairness, the song is composed of littler, distinct sections, and all of those are excellent. Thick As A Brick is reminiscent of a great symphony in its scale and the best of folk rock weirdness in its content. Though the lyrics are perhaps the only ones on the planet murkier than Steely Dan’s, they are pure poetry and evocative of strong emotions.

    If for no other reason than its fascinating concept, Thick As A Brick is a fantastic album from start to finish. All the better, then, that a sequel (Thick As A Brick 2!) is now available for purchase.

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