Thursday, March 16, 2006

Rock 'n' roll queries answered

Dear Rock 'n' Roll Answer Man,

We want to make sure we have the right opinions about music. So, here are ten rock 'n' roll questions:

1. What's the heaviest album in rock 'n' roll? That's easy. Led Zeppelin's debut LP, complete with the seminal "Dazed and Confused," ranks as the weightiest slab of modern music. You've got Jimmy Page's masterful guitar licks, Robert Plant's primitive vocals and a powerful rhythm section comprised of bassist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham. Surprisingly, this bombast drew straight from the blues heritage of the southern U. S. You don't need an illegal substance to have your mind blown by this album.

2. Who's rock's greatest guitarist? That was and is Jimi Hendrix. He only produced three albums during his lifetime and guitar players of the day couldn't figure out how he created his unmistakable sound. Many more posthumous albums have appeared and guitarists are still trying to duplicate Jimi's riffs from "Little Wing," "Red House," and dozens of other classics.

3. Which older disc has the best sound? Put on "Chronicle" by Creedence Clearwater Revival and prepare to be amazed. Singer, songwriter, lead guitarist, arranger and producer John Fogerty masterfully put onto disc the "swamp rock" he heard in his head. "Proud Mary," "Green River," "Who'll Stop the Rain," and more still sound fresh today.

4. Who has the most rabid fans? The Grateful Dead's psychedelic horde of fans, known as Deadheads, have followed the band, literally and figuratively for forty years. Some bands, like Phish, have tried to replicate the phenomenon, but have drawn only mild comparisons. Things splintered a bit following the death of beloved lead guitarist Jerry Garcia, but shows till then were as curiously fascinating as any traveling sideshow or carnival on earth.

5. What is the rockingest CD? Try "Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy," by the Who. This collection cooks from start to finish with no-nonsense noise like "I Can't Explain," "My Generation," "Pictures of Lily," and "Happy Jack." Pete Townshend knows how to write a tune that'll stay in your head for decades. And, bandmates Roger Daltrey, Keith Moon and John Entwistle rock like there's no tomorrow.

6. What rock 'n' roll book should everybody read? "Heroes and Villains," by Steven Gaines is the true story of the Beach Boys and leader Brian Wilson. You'll wonder how Wilson, even if appearing fragile mentally, managed to survive his tumultuous life before and after the early hit-making years. Michael Jackson's got nothing on Brian Wilson.

7. What album should exist but doesn't? Most of Bob Seger's pre-"Night Moves" albums remain out-of-print, allegedly because he doesn't think they sound that good. But, Seger recorded tons of great rockin' singles that deserve to be heard again. So, Bob, please gather up your early tapes, like "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man," "Lucifer," "Ivory," "Lookin' Back," and "Get Out of Denver," and issue "Greatest Hits: The Prequel."

8. What's the most under-rated rock band? That has to be Badfinger. These Beatles proteges put out the perfect single, "Come and Get It," followed by "No Matter What," and "Day After Day." They even wrote "Without You," recorded by Harry Nilsson and Mariah Carey. Being compared to the Fab Four was both a blessing and a curse, however. Success eluded them and two members of the group committed suicide in a sad ending to a great band.

9. What CD is out of print but shouldn't be? Imagine an album with performers such as George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne. That album would be called "Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 1," and would contain "Handle With Care" and "End of the Line." Now imagine it out-of-print. It is and only God knows why.

10. What's the worst song to make number one? "Sugar, Sugar," by the Archies, a studio group based on the cartoon series, is etched into musical history, circa 1969. Nobody knows why, not even the Archies.

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