June 30, 2013

What's Missing from Entertainment Weekly's All-Time Greatest?

Entertainment Weekly just issued its “100 All-Time Greatest” issue, which lists the supposed greatest movies, TV shows, albums, and novels of, well, all time. In the Editor’s Note, Jess Cagle writes that “[w]e would decide what was best, without worrying whether it adhered to or violated conventional wisdom,” which included trying to “honor contemporary work that will endure for centuries to come alongside the classics.”

While I am well aware that music is as subjective as one's taste in the opposite sex (which is why many people look at me funny when I tell them my all-time celebrity crush is Tom Selleck!), as a music fanatic I couldn't help but share a few albums that I think should’ve been included in the “All-Time Greatest issue”, although for whatever reason didn’t make it there.   

So I'm just going to go out and say it.  Why the eff did not one single Steely Dan album make the list?  I realize that some do not like Steely Dan and that some may not have heard of Steely Dan (those who have not are either 12 and/or exclusively listen to whatever the Top 40 station spoon-feeds you, and for that your opinion doesn't really matter in this case.)  Most anyone who loves music, or perhaps more importantly knows music, realizes that Steely Dan is a serious band for the serious music nerd, case in point being Paul Rudd’s character in the movie Knocked Up.  His friends made fun of him for it (because that's what douche-y dudes do, but as a music producer he knew his stuff and made his case for why Steely Dan is one of the greatest bands ever). While my life changed (good art has that effect) when I really discovered Steely Dan at the age of 17 is actually pretty irrelevant here, especially since Katy Lied and Pretzel Logic are both albums that have received wide critical acclaim and beyond that are just really universally great pieces of music.  No disrespect to EW, but for these reasons, at least one of those albums should have made the list.

Whether you like hip hop or not, I was quite appalled that not a single Roots album appeared on EW's list, though I did agree with the inclusion of Jay-Z’s The Blueprint, De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising, and The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. The Roots are the kind of band that transcend their genre.  And by this I mean that people who don't even like hip hop happen to appreciate the Roots. But strictly on an album level, their records are the sort that encompass a very distinct mood and theme (of particular importance since EW's listing is based on greatest albums and not bands). Most notable, and missing from the list in my opinion, were Illadelph Halflife (released in 1996) and undun (released in 2011).  Both are the kind of albums that will continue to blow your mind no matter how many times you've played them over.  Listen for yourself, and you'll likely agree.

Finally, how did Al Green's Call Me (which I like, understandably) make the list, but not Shuggie Otis’s Inspiration Information? That album is disgustingly incredible. Released in 1974, it maintains a consistent laidback, romantic mood, while simultaneously unfolding like a novella.  As a timepiece of the 1970s, it also somehow still manages to transcend the time period. For example, I could play the album in summertime 1970s Greenwich Village or summertime 2010s Greenwich Village and in either era it would hold up as one of the great Greats. And, well, “Strawberry Letter 23” and “Aht Uh Mi Head” are easily five-star tracks, at least they are for me.

And that's all I have to say about that.

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