Tuesday, March 11, 2008


I recently asked whether or not music reviews matter, after Maxim magazine was busted reviewing albums by The Black Crowes and Nas... albums which they hadn't heard. England's Times Online has gone one further, posting a list of the top 20 albums critics love that the public hates, and albums that the public loves that critics hate. They cleverly called it "Trouts and Bats" because number one on the critic's list is Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica, and topping the public's list is Meat Loaf's Bat Out Of Hell. While I have both albums in my collection, I rarely listen to either. Mr. Loaf's is a bit overplayed and over-the-top, although there are songs that I have an affection for. While Capt. Beefheart's... well, I bought it after reading Kurt Loder's review of it in his book, also called Trout Mask Replica. I just couldn't get into most of it.

I've been paid to write my opinion of music a few times over the years, in books, liner notes, web sites and even magazines, but I've always felt like more of a fan than a critic. I'm never gonna miss a Rush or Yes tour, and I could care less about many critical faves. On the other hand, I'm not a fan of bands that have sold millions and millions of records like Journey or REO Speedwagon, yet I love The Velvet Underground and The Ramones. I like to think that I can ultimately think for myself and decide what I like.

So, I wasn't surprised that I have (and love) albums on both lists. On the critics list (which isn't really albums the public "hates" - most of the public probably hasn't heard much of it) is, shockingly, Aimee Mann's classic Whatever. Whatever indeed! It's as accessible as anything I've ever heard. Also, Van Morrison's Astral Weeks (I thought that this album was from his popular era) and Love's Forever Changes.

At #3 on the public's list, was Norah Jones' great debut, Come Away With Me. I've always thought that if she recorded it more indie-style (instead of with the great Arif Mardin) and it didn't find an audience, the haters might have been appreciaters. But "F" the haters any damn way. Billy Joel's Greatest Hits was at #9, and even though I'm down with the Piano Man, some of those songs are so overplayed, I get it (and he might agree). At #15: Genesis' We Can't Dance. Yo, it's no Invisible Touch, but I still like some of the songs, I'm surprised that Phil Collins or Mike & The Mechanics didn't make the list. The biggest surprise was at #16: Pearl Jam's monster classic Vs. I thought that if there was an album that critics didn't like it was Ten. That one threw me. On the other hand, not to hate too much, I was OK with some of the other albums on the list by James Blunt, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey and Shania Twiz-ain, to name a few.

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