On The Fence: 20 Verdicts


I was leafing through the ‘On The Fence’ archive for this blog recently, and I realized that I’ve drawn pretty strong conclusions about many of the albums in question there. In the course of writing those posts, I spent a LOT of time with the albums (nearly drove The P nuts with some of them) and really gave each of them a fair chance to win me over. Some did – others, not so much.

It’s also worth repeating (for the Hall & Oates and Billy Joel fans out there) that I was genuinely torn about these albums, and these weren’t just convenient excuses to rip popular music from the 70’s and 80’s. These posts weren’t exactly scientific enquiries, but they did produce some interesting results, in the form of lively comments.

After listening to the albums and weighing those comments, here are my verdicts on 20 of the albums that I’ve placed On The Fence. And because my opinion doesn’t necessarily reflect the collective verdict of the commentors, I’m including a “Key Comment” for each album – please enjoy the wit and wisdom of my esteemed readers.

Here we go. Again…

The Album: David Byrne & Brian Eno | My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts

The Argument: Musical genius or dated techno?

Key Comment: “Essentially, the meaning of the album is religious. To be submerged in the music is to be engaged in an act of faith. I know that must sound like sheer wackiness, but the best songs on the album are riffs off religious music, and the ultimate effect is one of trance-like devotion to a superior being or vast ephemeral, untouchable truth.” – Aldo Velasco

My Verdict: Thumbs up. How can you argue with comments like that?

The Album: Journey | Greatest Hits

The Argument: 80’s schlock or golden oldies?

Key Comment: “No, the music isn’t especially good. But for me, it’s a direct conduit to very specific places and times. Nice places to visit, but I’m glad I don’t live there anymore.” – JD

My Verdict: Thumbs up. Hey, nostalgia’s powerful stuff.

The Album: Michael Jackson | Thriller

The Argument: Jacko or wacko?

Key Comment: “Even weirdos can bust out some dopeness and when they do, they ought to be recognized for it… which, in this case, would be the astronimical sale of 26 million units… that’s a lot of worn out tape decks and needles, people…” – Arlo Chingaderas

My Verdict: Thumbs down. Too much weirdness under the bridge.

The Album: Miles Davis | Sketches Of Spain

The Argument: Classic jazz or classical music dressed as jazz?

Key Comment: “I, for one, think you should take Sketches Of Spain off your turntable and head to your nearest frisbee golf course. Miles gets kudos for trying, but not much more.” – Cordell

My Verdict: Thumbs down. I’m sure it’s brilliant, but I just don’t get it.

The Album: KISS | Kiss Alive II

The Argument: Good memories or bad music?

Key Comment: “While I’ll fully admit that KISS is not a band with any kind of earth-shattering music talent, twere it not for them, there might never have been a Poison, a Slaughter, a Twisted Sister. Without those bands, I might not have had the high school realization that I, myself, like to rock.” – Cindy

My Verdict: I’m still up in the air on this one.

The Album: The Police | Synchronicity

The Argument: Smart pop or pretentious poppycock?

Key Comment: “Many of the songs even seemed annoying to my wide eyed teenage self then. Now, they just plain suck. However, the packaging and marketing of that album would pave the way for fetishism of the rock brand, rather than the rock band.” – Mikel Chase

My Verdict: Thumbs down. Some good moments, but sheesh…

The Album: Jethro Tull | Original Masters

The Argument: Prog rock or hard rock?

Key Comment: “All in all, I remember a lot worse shit in the late 60’s early 70’s than Jethro Tull.” – HB

My Verdict: Thumbs down. Hard to take that flute too seriously.

The Album: Ted Nugent | Great Gonzos: The Best Of

The Argument: Juvenile knucklehead or guitar god?

Key Comment: “I was pretty wasted that day but I may well have been the guy that threw the frisbee.” – Bill

My Verdict: Thumbs up. Barely.

The Album: Beastie Boys | The Mix Up

The Argument: Funky good times or funky muzak?

Key Comment: “In their catalog, it will prove insignificant over time, but when the songs are included on their next greatest hits, they’ll sit rightfully beside the rest of their music without missing a beat.” – jkg

My Verdict: Thumbs up. Not their best, but still pretty good.

The Album: Eric Clapton | Journeyman

The Argument: Classic comeback or mediocre misfire?

Key Comment: “Boring. So very very boring. I’m pretty sure Eric Clapton was replaced by a soulless cyborg around 1981. Bark bark.” – James Osterberg

My Verdict: Thumbs down. Boooooooring.

The Album: Neil Young | Tonight’s The Night

The Argument: Sloppy gem or unlistenable mess?

Key Comment: “Oh goodness… feedback & slop = a few of my favorite things…” – Devil Dick

My Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s messy, but it’s Neil.

The Album: MC5 | Kick Out The Jams

The Argument: Sloppy gem or unlistenable mess?

Key Comment: “FYI – The vocalist on Ramblin’ Rose wasn’t Rob Tyner, it was Wayne Kramer.” – D.D. Banter

My Verdict: Thumbs up. Noisy, but well worth the earache.

The Album: Peter Gabriel | ‘Melt’

The Argument: Smart pop or pretentious poppycock?

Key Comment: “I agree with Devil Dick (and I like to type and say ‘Devil Dick’). PG has some goofy stuff out there, but I wouldn’t throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.” – Foo

My Verdict: Thumbs down. Peter Gabriel makes me laugh, but not in a good way.

The Album: Chicago | Greatest Hits

The Argument: 70’s fluff or pop perfection?

Key Comment: “It all depends on your sitch. Swanky dinner party? Cetera’s falsetto ain’t gonna cut it. Barbecued hot dogs in the backyard? That horn section sounds awesome. Sometimes smoked cheddar from Hickory Farms just tastes güd.” – shelbydee

My Verdict: Thumbs up. Tough to deny those horns.

The Album: Abba | Gold

The Argument: Good cheese or bad cheese?

Key Comment: “Fuck Abba! – P.S. My Mom’s from Fon du Lac.” – Furr

Key Comment II: “Fucking ABBA rocks my face. And I will kick anyone’s ass who says differently.” – Kdubbie

My Verdict: Thumbs down. I and I is annoyed.

The Album: Ray Charles | Modern Sounds In Country & Western Music

The Argument: Pure genius or dated relic?

Key Comment: “Country Music with strings? What’s next: Mandolin Metal, Goth Tuba, Xylaphone Blues, Harpsichord Funk or Yanni Does Zeppelin? I have no problems with experimental music as long as my lunch stays where it belongs.” – heavy g

My Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s dated and dusty, but it’s Ray Charles dammit!

The Album: Grateful Dead | American Beauty

The Argument: Classic Dead or lifeless dud?

Key Comment: “Every song is good or great and shouldn’t be compared to their live recordings to determine if it is good or not. It is simply, a good record. Frankly, I am a bit annoyed this is even up for debate.” – James Cabral

My Verdict: Thumbs up. Thumbs down. Do such things matter when you’re dancing with cartoon bears?

The Album: Crosby Stills Nash & Young | Deja Vu

The Argument: Timeless classic or cotton candy?

Key Comment: “Is this the CSN and sometimes Y album that has the track ‘Impregnating Lesbians’ on it? Oh wait, that came later.” – bert

Key Comment II: “Now I’ve got ‘Our House’ stuck in my head. Thanks a lot.” – Aldo Velasco

My Verdict: Thumbs down. Yawn…

The Album: Billy Joel | The Stranger

The Argument: Blast from the past or pointless pop?

Key Comment: “One stint in rehab does not destroy a lifetime of quality work. And being the top-selling catalogue artist on a record label like Columbia is not merely “a bunch of downloads”. This is the same record company that markets Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan. Billy Joel outsells all their other legacy artists – COMBINED. Methinks you are another gullible victim of the tabloids. Do a little research before you post stuff like that.” – Bob

Key Comment II: “I also find it hard to believe that in 10 years all you heard about him was ‘drunken shenanigans’. He has toured constantly with and without Elton John during those years, wrote and released an album of piano compositions, had a Tony Award-winning hit musical on Broadway that is still being produced on the road, wrote an anti-war song for a new young artist, donated much time and money to numerous good causes, and done an extensive tour of colleges around the world speaking to students of music and music business. He even designed a boat which has become a successful business in itself.” – Bob

Key Comment III: “I’m more of a ‘Glass Houses’ kinda guy…” – Devil Dick

Key Comment IV: “Wow, I want three of whatever Bob’s drinking. Good show, man. While I still maintain that box office draw is hardly a measure of artistic merit (or ‘substantive music’), Billy Joel is lucky to have admirers like Bob.” – James Osterberg

My Verdict: Thumbs up. Bob’s comments convinced me…

The Album: Hall & Oates | Rock ‘N’ Soul Part 1

The Argument: Awful or awesome?

Key Comment: “God! I’ve had it with the pompous windbags telling what music they think is cool and worthwhile and what is shite. Who died and made you blowhard fuckers king?” – Pricklee Pete

My Verdict: Thumbs up. 4 out of 5 pompous windbags prefer Hall & Oates.

12 Responses to “On The Fence: 20 Verdicts”

  1. devil dick Says:

    please enjoy the wit and wisdom of my esteemed readers.

    yep, that was a good read but some of them albums still suck…!


  2. Foo Says:

    thank you mr. k – now every time I hear Billy Joel (which happens with surprising frequency), someone always asks “what are you smirking about?”

  3. MoistW Says:

    Wow. Journey? All those drunken nights where I claimed I could kick your ass seem karmic retribution in retrospect.

  4. dkpresents Says:

    When the lights go down in the city
    And the sun shines on the bay
    I want to be there in my city
    Ooh, ooh

    So you think you’re lonely
    Well my friend I’m lonely too
    I want to get back to my city by the bay
    Ooh, ooh

    It’s sad, oh there’s been mornings out on the road without you,
    Without your charms,
    Ooh, my, my, my

  5. devil dick Says:

    oi vey….

  6. MoistW Says:


  7. Chatty Says:


  8. eyeeatmusic Says:


    thanks for the re-cap, I giggled to myself

  9. Erick Says:

    kiss es la mejor banda. arriba kiss soy unos de sus fans

  10. Blaney Says:

    michael jackson gets a thumbs down?? i dont think so! what was he called again?? Oh thats right.. the KING OF POP!

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