Feb 052013
 

UnknownAs an offshoot to the whole MBV thing, and the relationship between (bear with me) masterpiece and follow-up, I got to thinking of analogous album pairs.

On the color wheel, we have groups of color arranged next to each other, with a dominant color (such as red, at let’s say 12:00), and then adjacent colors (orange-red at 1:00, orange at 2:00, red-violet at 11:00, and so forth).

I’m curious to know of such pairings with essential albums, and their follow-up or predecessor (as in the case of Sticky Fingers:Exile on Main Street). Are there pairs of albums, released in consecutive order, where one is the “acknowledged masterpiece” and the other is just as good, if not better, and you always listen to that one more often anyway.

Does this make sense? Give me a red, and an orange-red. I’ll give another example. OK Computer (yes, watershed, that is known and accepted,and I love it) to Kid A (not as critically lauded, but damn, that’s the one for me!).

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  25 Responses to “Two of a Perfect Pair”

  1. This makes sense to me. The first that comes to mind is Paul Simon’s Rhythm of the Saints, which I love and which finally wore me down (to cite another recent thread) to the occasional greatness of Rhymin’ Simon. I don’t even own the breakthrough, acknowledged masterpiece, the South African record.

    Similarly, I listen to Magical Mystery Tour a lot more frequently than I listen to Sgt. Pepper’s – and as much as the Mystery Tour tv special is considered a failure, I think the album (2 separate EPs in the UK, right?) is on par with the rest of the band’s output.

  2. Apparently, I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One is now Yo La Tengo’s acknowledged masterpiece, but while I love it, I prefer the albums on either side, Electropura and And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out, more.

    I’d take Joni Mitchell’s For The Roses over Blue: greater lyrical and musical variety, plus bonus nudie pic.

  3. jeangray

    Heresy! “And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out” is their true masterpiece!

  4. misterioso

    Ill take Deep Purple over Blue.

  5. Suburban kid

    These two albums weren’t adjacent to each other, but I’ve never understood why Rocket to Russia is considered the Ramones’ greatest record. It is very good, and it does have two or three of their best songs on it, but it is the first one they did that was not consistently great end to end.

    For me, the first album is 100 on a scale where 100 means it could not be any better than it is. Leave Home, the second album, is a 95, but Rocket to Russia is an 85. This was the album on which they really started repeating themselves, when their conceit of sticking to an unchanging sound meant they would have to come up with more great songs than was any way possible when you’re putting 14 tracks on an album and releasing two albums a year.

    • cliff sovinsanity

      I’ll grant you the first album is 100, but after that there is nothing to compare it to. Leave Home and R2R are hell of lot closer in tempo and production. I’d give the former a 79 and the latter an 80.

      • Suburban kid

        To me the tempo doesn’t vary much across all three (they all have a mix of mostly fast and 2 or 3 slow-ish songs), but the production does.

        Ramones has an austere, somewhat dry, slightly echoing industrial sound, like it was recorded in a 1930s factory. The stereo mix (with bass in one channel and guitar in the other) contributes to the extreme austerity.

        Leave Home sounds brighter and more up front, a little wetter, almost slick. I don’t really study these things but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some double tracking of guitars that creates the added oomph.

        R2R sounds like an attempt to go back to the sound of the first album. In one sense it does that (there’s a two-dimensional plain-ness about it), but at the same time the guitar sounds cleaner and not as forward in the mix.

        I won’t quibble with your ratings; glad to see you rate Ramones higher than the “classic” R2R. (Although I could be out of touch It may be R2R’s critical status was higher in the 70s and 80s for some reason. I know it was a chapter in “Stranded”, etc.)

  6. jeangray

    “Pretenders” & “Pretenders II” are perfect examples of this phenomenon for me. While their debut is their acknowledged masterpiece, I find “II” to be just that much better. It takes the blueprint set by the first album, and subtly expands their sound to more dramatic proportions. You could make a case for three of a perfect pair, if’n you also include the killer E.P. that was released between albums. This is everything & anything that you need to to hear from this band.

    The facts of the demise of this line-up, could be an entry in the Saddest Story in R’n’R in For Once & For All February. I’ve spent many a moment contemplating what Honeyman-Scott’s & Fardon’s career would have been like, had they survived. Truly a guitar team for the ages. Ms. Hynde has been quoted as saying somethang to effect that the Pretenders became a tribute band after losing those two key founding members.

    • misterioso

      I still like II but a couple of its best songs were already on Extended Play. Otherwise, the good songs aren’t quite as good as the good songs on the first record, and the mediocre songs are a little more mediocre. I would still make room for some tracks from the next couple of records, though don’t press me to name more than a couple right now. “Back on the Chain Gang” has never really worn out its welcome with me, for some reason.

    • Re-visited Pretenders II not long ago and it’s not a bad album, but I prefer the first one.

      I also wonder “what if.” For awhile, they were the coolest band around. The day Pretenders II was released, I saw them at the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis. At the end of the show, me and my teenybopper pals were being male groupies trying to get a glimpse of Chrissie, but evidently, she went out the front alone and Farndon, Honeyman-Scott, and Martin Chambers came out at the back of the theater. We shook Pete’s hand — “great show, Pete!, great show!” He gave us a fucked up look, said “arggggghhhh,” and got into the limo. Dead less than a year later.

  7. Many people hold up “Tim” as the pinnacle of The Replacements career, but I’ve always had a soft spot for “Pleased to Meet Me.” In any event, the trio of “Let It Be,” “Tim,” and “Pleased To Meet Me” can stand up to any other three consecutive rock albums in my book.

    “Best Three Consecutive Albums!” Once and for all!

  8. machinery

    I’ve mentioned this in another post. All Mod Cons is great but I turn to Setting Sons more often.

    I also dig the first Specials album, but the 2nd is cooler, methinks.

  9. Let me add: Dark Side of the Moon is “all that”, but how much more refreshing these days to listen to “Meddle”.

  10. Maybe I listened to “The Band” a little too much. Now when I need a little near-perfection around the house I reach for “Stage Fright”.

  11. cliff sovinsanity

    It’s hard to compare the two but I’d nominate Teenage Head and Shake Some Action. Depending on which Flamin Groovies camp (Loney era vs Wilson era) you fall under either one is the masterpiece. All Music gives the edge to SSA but all the hipsters laud Teenage Head. I’m slightly biased toward the Shake Some Action side since this is how I was first introduced to the band.

  12. trigmogigmo

    I’ve not yet fully warmed up to Tusk on a percentage basis but I recall that it’s a favorite of either Slim or Mrs. Jade, ahead of Rumours.

    Peter Gabriel’s So is obviously his biggest success, but the prior, last-of-the-eponymously-titled albums, aka Security is much more compelling in my opinion.

    Similarly, INXS’ Kick is a great glossy kick in the ass, but the one before it, The Swing is 100% goodness. Oh, wait! There was an album in between, the unmemorable Listen Like Thieves.

  13. The alblum that seems to get the critic and pop music fan attention, and pretty much the only Todd Rundgren disc that gets any airplay (not counting ‘Bang the Drum’) is Something/Anything? It’s definitely a high point on the road to Utopia and you would need to grow more fingers to count up the great songs he put out on that release.

    But my favorite in that four disc run opening run Runt => Ballad => Something/Anything? is the next – A Wizard/A True Star. There is more goofy stuff on that disc that probably turned a lot of fans off, but there is also a lot more chance taking, spectacular musicianship, and production innovation that made that disc sound like nothing that had come before and very little that has followed it.

 
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