Memos From a Music Fiend
by Alejandro Magaña
The Clientele Suburban Light 2000 Cover

The Clientele: Suburban Light

I am woefully untraveled. For one who has so much love for plenty of art and music from around the world, I haven’t been anywhere, never having even traveled farther than Baja, California in Mexico, the only other country I’ve ever been to…

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Fela Kuti “Expensive Shit 1975 Cover

Fela Ransome Kuti and Africa 70: Expensive Shit

Just look at this album cover. Perhaps your eye first registers the barb wire, cut across horizontally in several lines across the frame of the image or maybe it’s the beautiful black women half-naked with breasts bared. To me, the thing to notice is THEIR SMILES. Those big beaming smiles of transcendence that complement the fists raised in the air…

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Creedence Clearwater Revival “Willy and the Poorboys” 1969 Cover

Creedence Clearwater Revival: Willy And The Poor Boys

O, sweet CCR! In the last year of the ’60s these guys were on a roll, under the leadership of commander John Fogerty; this was their third album within a year, a mere three months after the release of “Green River,” so the mood is snakeskin, simultaneously rugged and smooth…

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Idles “Ultra Mono” 2020 Cover

Idles: Ultra Mono

Sure, this was just released recently, but I’ve listened to it over and over, and was so compelled to listen to it LOUD that I ran out the day after and just bought the CD for listening in my car, (which I hardly ever do – I usually only buy CDs used, exclusively for my car – I’m a vinyl junkie, dig?) which is one of the times I can really let heavier music rip…

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Animal Collective “Feels” 2005 cover

Animal Collective: Feels

I once read that the name of this album was a homage to the Beach Boys’ unreleased legendary follow-up to Pet Sounds, “Smile.” While Wilson was working on the record, he’d call the random fragments of child-like dreamy music his “feels.” I can’t imagine a more appropriate title for this atmospheric wonderland of a record…

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The John Coltrane Quartet "Africa / Brass"

The John Coltrane Quartet: Africa/Brass

Had to throw this album on this morning, one of my absolute favorite records of St. Trane’s, his eighth studio album as band leader and his first for Impulse, the fledgling label that he would shepherd out of obscurity, becoming a go-to label for many of the hottest jazz players in the ‘60s era that went from hard bop to experimentation and free…

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Television "Marquee Moon"

Television: Marquee Moon

There once was a famous decadent poet named Verlaine in France. Less than a century after his death, a young punk rocker and aspiring poet named Tom Miller moved to New York City to meet up with a friend, another aspiring punk-poet named Richard Hell, and started a band…

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Nick Drake Five Leaves Left

Nick Drake: Five Leaves Left

This morning, I awoke with some darkness in my mind. I’ve had some strange and terrifying dreams lately, realistic because they are simply about people I know, loved ones going through horrors, that I’m relieved and grateful to realize are not reality when morning comes. Yet they resonate.

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The Ramones Album Cover

The Ramones: Self Titled

To hell with it! Who’m I trying to impress?! I just wrote about The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper,” so why not keep it simple and obvious: tectonic movers only for now! That’s right, I’m putting these New Yawk mooks on a tier reserved for only the most impactful game-changing slabs of wax! Ya don’t like it, go squawk to the fuzz or cry to yer mommy cuz I ain’t here to argue: The Ramones changed rock and roll forever.

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The Kinks, "Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround: Part One" Cover

The Kinks: Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround: Part One

“Hush little mommy don’t you cry/ I’ve got to see what it’s like on the world outside/ got to get out of this life somehow/ got to be free, got to be free now.” Thus begins this absolutely essential album and an excellent intro for anybody totally unfamiliar with The Kinks, released as the official US ban of the band by the American Musician’s Union (1967-70, seminal rock years) finally expired.

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The Beatles, "Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band" Cover

The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

I can’t even imagine how mind blowing this album was in May 1967 when this came out. One of the first concept albums, certainly the first ‘popular’ concept album, it was sophisticated enough to impress the literati and artists of the time and brimming with enough melody and hooks to enchant generation after generation of rock music fans.

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The Beach Boys, "Pet Sounds" Cover

The Beach Boys: Pet Sounds

I’m not going to be able to really contribute anything substantial to the endless array of fawning verbiage that has accompanied this particular album (my fellow San Diegans, did you know the photo on the album cover was shot at the World Famous San Diego Zoo?!) Hmmm… As far as I’m concerned, “Pet Sounds” can only be understood simply on the merits of its artistic integrity and historical context.

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Public Enemy Fear of a Black Planet Cover

Public Enemy: Fear of a Black Planet

This is one of the albums that inspired this entire list, as it was one of a “10 most influential records, no explanation, only covers” early quarantine challenge. One of the first albums I ever owned, bought on cassette right when it came out.

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Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds "Tender Prey" Cover

Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds: Tender Prey

I was raised Catholic and went to church almost every Sunday for the first 16 years of my life. I was deeply spiritual from an early age, praying quite often, my heart a blossoming rose for Jesus, whose unfettered love for even the lowest of humankind, (lepers and whores, ya know?) conflated with my early understanding of non-violence espoused by my parents…

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Miles Davis "Kind of Blue" Cover

Miles Davis: Kind of Blue

Comfort food for the ears. If you like jazz, then you probably like this record. I don’t care how often I’ve played it in my life but this is one of those records that gets me every time.

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Jane's Addiction "Ritual De Lo Habitual" Cover

Jane’s Addiction: Ritual De Lo Habitual

Ah, the days of MTV’s “120 Minutes” BEFORE Nirvana’s “Nevermind” exploded everything, and all that was underground leapt up onto the shiny platters of hungry consumers bibbed and salivating with sharpened knives and forks, ready to take your favorite bands that scared your parents and carve ‘em up into something perhaps a little more palatable…

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Grouper

Grouper: Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill

Writing about Grouper is a pretty drastic pivot after Betty Davis yet something essential about feminism is still in play here, a gesture I don’t take lightly, the assertion and beauty of prismatic discovery, all the colors of the rainbow contribute.

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Betty Davids

Betty Davis: Betty Davis

Unjustly flying under the radar for decades, simply because she was Miles Davis’ second wife, Betty Davis is now spoken of with the same reverence as any of the funk greats that emerged in the late 1960s and after, say Sly and the Family Stone, and Parliament-Funkadelic.

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