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September 7, 2010

Six Degrees of Cheese: Six Lost Albums

by Lane Smith

About a year ago, I was at a party when a friend decided to put on some music. I saw him reach for what I expected to be an iPod, but instead he had an old Joe Walsh album. When the needle first touched vinyl I heard the familiar, yet forgotten, crackling sound. The sound transported me back to the first time I heard "Blonde on Blonde" through the massive headphones attached with a spiraling black cord to my parents' old turntable in their living room. I was hooked. The next day, I added a turntable to my Christmas list and started going through the dusty stacks of albums in my parents' house.

I am a fan of classic rock and consider myself to have an above average knowledge of music, so there were many albums I was already familiar with. Floyd, Dylan, and The Beatles were all present. As I searched through the albums, however, I couldn't believe the amount of music that I had never heard of. I have picked out the 6 albums that I was previously unfamiliar with of but enjoyed the most for the following list.

#1 - Pink Floyd - Ummagumma (1969)

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I'm sure some of the hardcore Floyd fans out there are rolling their eyes. I'm not the type of person who only associates Pink Floyd with Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall, but I'll admit I had not previously listened to Ummagumma. I was in for a treat. Well, more of a journey. Everything about Ummagumma makes it a perfect fit for this list. It's not one of the more popular Floyd albums, it's got awesome album art, and it's like a religious experience on a record. Ummagumma is something that will never translate to the world of 99cent single track downloads. It must be listened to in its entirety. Otherwise, the track "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gather Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict" can't be fully appreciated.

#2 - Johnny Winter - Nothin' But the Blues (1977)

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This album makes the list because it actually opened me up to an entirely new genre of music. I was never much of a fan of blues music. I guess that's because I never heard Johnny Winter play guitar with Muddy Waters. Winter is known as a guitar god. After listening to this album, I agree with that description. Winter's gravel-like bluesy vocals perfectly compliment his guitar work and are not what you would expect to hear coming from a long-haired albino. My favorite tracks were "Drinkin' Blues" (for the music, as well as the humorous lyrics) and "Walkin Thru the Park" with Muddy Waters on lead vocals.

#3 - Warren Zevon - Excitable Boy (1978)

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Everyone's heard "Werewovles of London", but how many people can sing along with "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner"? Excitable Boy by Warren Zevon is a shining example of why iTunes is bad for music. From the first notes of "Johnny Strikes Up the Band" all the way through "Lawyers, Guns and Money", Excitable Boy is a fantastic album. Zevon's lyrics are unpredictable and extremely entertaining. Another standout is the slower ballad "Accidentally Like a Martyr." This album is my personal favorite from the entire list.

#4 - Ian Hunter - "You're Never Alone with a Schizophrenic" (1979)

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This album was specifically recommended to me when I said I was looking for lost classics. Thanks to the very unentertaining Drew Carey, I was vaguely familiar with Hunter because of the song "Cleveland Rocks." The ballad "Ships" is another great tune from this album. "Ships" is so cool that even Barry Manilow covered it. "Just Another Night" is a great rock and roll song with cool piano and my personal favorite on the album. Lastly, take a look at the album cover. That's a level of awesomeness that could only be found in 1979.

#5 - David Bowie - "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars" (1972)

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I am not a David Bowie fan. I only gave the album a listen because I had just put down a Mott the Hoople album that credited Bowie. I initially put the album on expecting it to be similar to the songs I knew from Bowie. "Fame" is a good example of a song that makes me envious of my deaf cat Orion. Ziggy Stardust was not like "Fame" at all. The art of the concept album has been lost somewhere in time (sorry Green Day). This album, however, shows how to do it right. It's entertaining, the story is pretty easy to follow, and "Suffragette City" is a cool track.

#6 - The Velvet Underground - "Loaded" (1970)

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This is a rock and roll album. A true rock and roll album. The Velvet Underground was a group I had heard of but had never listened to. I regret waiting so long. "Sweet Jane", "Rock & Roll", and "I Found a Reason" were my favorites to the album. This one also made the list because it got me listening to other stuff from the VU as well as Lou Reed.

That concludes my short list of "new" albums that I have discovered. My search for vinyl in record stores, thrift stores, and yard sales continues. Any additional recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

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