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Author: Subject: I could use some "Wilco" recommendations

Universal Peach





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  posted on 2/24/2014 at 03:01 AM
Well, i've actually seen "Wilco" live a couple of years ago and although i can remember that i liked the concert
i didn't make a mental note that day to check out their music catalogue. But a few months ago i picked up their "Ashes Of American Flags" DVD at a library old stock sale and i really really like it.

So all "Wilco" recommendations are welcome. Usually when i want to start getting stuff from a band with a long career and catalogue i prefer picking up a live release or a key album (preferably a deluxe / anniversary edition with bonus content).

So i think i'll start with "Kicking Television, Live In Chicago". Is that a good start?

 

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World Class Peach



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  posted on 2/24/2014 at 06:01 AM
That is a good album. I will say that sometimes if you start with a hot live album, it can prevent you from being fully able to get into the studio versions of those songs, at least for a while. I have had that happen with Rush and the Stones. I think you are better off slowly working your way through their catalogue in chronological order to understand their evolution. It is a fascinating journey.
 

True Peach



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  posted on 2/24/2014 at 07:56 AM
Summer Teeth.
Not only one of Wilco's finest (if not THE finest) - one of the 10 albums I'd grab off the shelf before running out of my burning house.

This was the second to the lat album before the dismissal of the late, Jay Bennett. If you listen to the albums before Bennett's involvement, Wilco sounded like the "Alt Country" (what ever the hell that means) band that they were labeled as. When Bennet came onboard, the sound of the band shifted to a psychedelic/prog type sound. They used instruments from steel guitars to mellotrons and recorded many layers (listen for the opera tenor on Candy Floss).
When Bennet was dismissed (watch the movie, "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart"), they retained a lot of his influence.

They're still a great band. I just think that Jay Bennett was a real assett to them.

 

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Peach Master



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  posted on 2/24/2014 at 11:14 AM
I'm kinda partial to a.m. It's got my favorite songs on it and I end up playing it more than the others. I also LOVE the Mermaid Avenue cd's with Billy Bragg, but I am a huge Bragg and Guthrie fan.

 

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Zen Peach



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  posted on 2/24/2014 at 11:41 AM
Impossible Germany off of Sky Blue Sky is one of my favorite songs - beautiful guitar on that one. The entire album is great. I also bought that DVD and it got me very interested in them. They are from Chicago, and I have never seen them live.

 

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Zen Peach



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  posted on 2/24/2014 at 02:04 PM
Sky Blue Sky and Wilco are the two I own and both are a good listen

 

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Peach Master



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  posted on 2/24/2014 at 07:02 PM
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost Is Born are essential. I also love Sky Blue Sky, Wilco (the album) and The Whole Love. Kicking Television is great and you should have received a passcode to download the audio from Ashes of American Flags.

 

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Peach Master



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  posted on 2/25/2014 at 11:04 AM
I think you can break Wilco into two distinct phases. Phase one with their first three albums (and Jay Bennett as noted) were a bit more rootsy and raucous in areas and you can feel Tweedy coming of his Uncle Tupelo years. I really like the first two and would say they're much easier to get into. AM is just plain fun and Wilco has some really beautiful and introspective songs. I saw them live at Variety Playhouse during their Wilco album and it was an outstanding show!

In their second phase they got much more experimental with guitar sounds and I've had a hard time getting into those albums. But of course this is where their popularity really took off so who am I to say.

 

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  posted on 2/25/2014 at 11:24 AM
All of their music with Jay Bennett. After that they have never been the same band.
 

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  posted on 2/25/2014 at 12:02 PM
sky blue sky is great. also, check out Bill Bragg and Wilco. That's a great album with Natalie Merchant sitting in.

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot - please defend this. i consider myself a decent evaluator of music. and i am in the camp of not getting this album whatsoever. but i'm wide open to loving it. i just need some reasons why.

 

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True Peach



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  posted on 2/25/2014 at 12:42 PM
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (and the film, I am Trying to Break Your Heart) is sort of Wilco's "Let it Be". There was the falling out/dismissal of Jay Bennett. We'd find out later that Jeff Tweedy was having a problem with pain killers - which most certainly led to the turmoil.

Wilco seems to rate a 75 - 80 on my scale (0-100) at any moment. The stuff that I like - I really like! Some of it leaves me scratching my head, but Hey! It's Jeff Tweedy's introspection. The tunes I really like on that album are I Am Trying To Break Your Heart, Jesus, Etc., Heavy Metal Drummer, I'm The Man Who Loves You, and Pot Kettle Black. That's most of them

The album that I really don't get is A Ghost is Born. There's a ... "song" on there called "Less Than You Think" which turns out to be about 15;00 of static and noise. The whole John Cage thing has been done (mainly by John Cage). This bit of self indulgence - and trying to get away with calling it art was a slap in the face of this fan. It does contain, "The Late Greats" and "Handshake Drugs" - certainly redeeming factors.

 

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Bill Ector, Randy Stephens, Dan Hills and a guy named BobO who I never met - Forever in my heart!

 

Extreme Peach



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  posted on 2/25/2014 at 12:45 PM
Sky Blue Sky..Impossible Germany..great song and incredible guitar
 
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Universal Peach



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  posted on 2/25/2014 at 12:56 PM
Thanks for all your input !!!

 

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Sublime Peach



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  posted on 2/25/2014 at 01:55 PM
Love this tune.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pMJpLEXrT4&feature=kp

I have seen them live once and though not ovewhelkmed at start of show by 1/2 way in I was sold. These guys are a great and sadly overlooked awesome big guitar band.

 

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World Class Peach



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  posted on 2/25/2014 at 11:38 PM
First off, if you start to dig Wilco, it is worth checking out Uncle Tupelo. That is where Jeff Tweedy got his start. That band was heavy on both its punk rock influences AND its country influences, so, they had a nice all-acoustic dark country album but also a few raw rock albums. That band was led by another singer, Jay Farrar. Think of Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy as two worthy singers in one band - not unlike what Gregg and Dickey became, mid-70s, maybe.

It all came together with their last album "Anodyne." Jeff Tweedy sang about half the songs, Jay Farrar sang about half the songs. They had worked out their early rough sound and had really gotten very good. This is an excellent album. If you want a more raw sound, go for their earlier stuff, but this album has some classics that Wilco will still play live occasionally.

Uncle Tupelo split up with Jay Farrar going off to found Son Volt, and EVERYONE ELSE IN THE BAND going off to form Wilco!!!

Wilco's output: Understand that writer/singer Jeff Tweedy drives this band.

1st album: "A.M." This album was made in a rush. The band had no lead guitarist so they borrowed a guy from the Bottle Rockets, Brian Hanneman, who was a pal. This album sounds very much like 1980s Tom Petty, a little Eagles, some Stones. To my ears, it has a few clunkers on Side Two. I like it, but it is not a mature work per se. They dismiss it.

2nd album; "Being There." This relatively new and unknown band insisted on releasing a double studio album as its second album! It has so many good songs, very eclectic. It makes me think in a sense of The Beatles' "The White Album," in that they show that they can do a lot of cool styles of songs in very different ways. They get Jay Bennett into the band, who acts as Jeff Tweedy's musical partner to very good effect. He adds very cool "piano chords" and harmonies, adding some real sophistication to the sound. I think every song on this album sounds MUCH better live, so that affects my feelings, but it is a very good album.

3rd album: "Summerteeth." One of my favorites. It has a real Beatles/ Beach Boys "orchestrated/ studio" thing going on; clearly it is a studio product, but an old school one, with an experimental vibe yet a throwback groove. Think "Abbey Road / Pet Sounds." I will note that, while Jay Bennett was a great guitar player live, there are not many stand-out lead guitar moments on his studio Wilco albums. I think this album has some of their best songs, and it is a headphone knock-out. It is one of my desert island discs.

4th/5th: "Mermaid Ave" vols 1 and 2. One thing to know about these two albums: they are Wilco with Billy Bragg and Natalie Merchant, and those other singers drive half the songs on these albums. The other thing to know: the lyrics are all Woody Guthrie lyrics that had never been set to music. OK. Volume One is outrageously good. It is like the long lost Band album, if The Band had met these guys. The music is so real and right and tight but loose and good, like "Big Pink" in its own way. It SOUNDS effortless. Jeff Tweedy gets maligned as singer sometimes, but I think he really Hits The Note on this album - if "One By One" and "Another Man's Done Gone" aren't his "Please Call Home" and "These Days," well, heck, I don't know.

Vol. 2 is good but not AS good.

6th. "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot." This put them on the map, I guess. It is a heck of an album to tackle. Critics were led to call Wilco the "American Radiohead" after this. Why? Well, basically, for this album, Wilco had a bunch of very cool songs. They recorded and re-recorded them in the studio endlessly. They piled up versions and alternate versions. They stacked up all sorts of overdubs. They lost their minds, fired their drummer, got dropped by their label, fired Jay Bennett too, all while finally sorting the album out in an experimental fashion. For some songs, they chopped out song parts that seemed essential to other people. Compare it to "Let It Be." With "Let It Be," the Beatles had good raw songs that they then added tons of orchstration to, which some people loved. The Beatles not too long ago released "Let It Be - Naked," which is those songs WITHOUT the orchestration. Well, imagine if they released those songs WITH the orchestration but WITHOUT the Beatles' 4-piece underneath! You would be left with the sound of a string section floating without the original song basis. Wilco experimented with THAT kind of thing: turning straightforward songs into chopped-up, mixed experiments. They took a year's worth of work and put it in a blender, almost literally.

It is an experimental album, and it is worth hearing some of the alternate versions of these songs that are kicking around. Some are on the movie, plenty are on youtube. I got kind of spoiled before listening to this album, so I did not dig it at first; I had seen/ heard a bunch of Wilco from the "Summerteeth" tour when I got to know this band, so I thought of them as very Stonesy, guitar-crunchy. Well, this album is a headphone trip, not a guitar album.

It IS in many ways like a Radiohead album, very studio. I missed the guitar for a while. However, once I got my head around the album and started listening to what was there, I became fascinated. The very different textures rubbed together in interesting ways. The way a standard instrument would drop out or drop in; the way seemingly dissonant parts would suddenly fit together; the way it would jump from horrific sound effects to a melodic groove; the way it serves up TEXTURES - it is a hell of a thing. And after a while, you realize that the album is FULL of awesome, haunting, catchy melodies, but they come to you in a way you would rarely hear on other albums. It makes you listen differently.

7th: "A Ghost is Born" - this is a recording of Jeff Tweedy wrestling with addiction. It has some very dissonant moments, but more garage-ish than studio-ish, and the 15-minute feedback session midway through is a waste of time. However, it has some unbelieveable great songs: "Handshake Drugs," "Late Greats," "Wishful Thinking," "Muzzle of Bees." It does some more of the studio noise-effect-dissonant thing, which you can get used to and enjoy for what it is, or else reject. I really love "Hell is Chrome," where Tweedy's desperate whisper hits my soul. The band was stripped down; only Tweedy on guitar, so again, not a lead guitar album.

8th: "Kicking Television" live - great album but as a fan / snob, I have heard better. It does introduce Nels Cline on guitar. To put it in perspective, jeez, I don't know. Imagine if, like, Derek Trucks suddenly joined Dylan's band? What I mean is, a band that did not have a notable lead guitar presence suddenly had a serious and interesting lead guitar player, one with a distinct and unusual approach.

9th. "Sky Blue Sky" - this one KILLED me when it came out, it was so good. This is the album for anyone who wants to like Wilco but who wants lead guitar. I mean, jeez. The number of stand-out lead guitar moments on this album are ridiculous, PLUS, it has the feel of an album recorded live in the studio, so it has that feeling. It breathes, like the ABB's 90's albums. No trickery. It does involve some interesting shifting time signatures, surprising nods to 70s prog rock, even while other songs echo Wings and the Eagles. Less "alt rock" experimental but more "1970s stretching out" sounding. Also, Tweedy's vocals are recorded up close and personal and sound very good.

As an FYI, some fans found it too slick after the edgier and more experimental albums that preceded it.

10th: "Wilco (the Album." I will admit, this is my least fave. It has many short catchy tunes. I just found it a bit forced and self-conscious and precious.

11th: "The Whole Love" - the 3rd album recorded with the new line-up. This one gels nicely and has many very good songs. It is not as lead guitar heavy as "Sky Blue Sky," but I think the songs are more memorable than on "Wilco The Album."

if I had to pick: Summerteeth, Sky Blue Sky, and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, with Mermaid Ave Vol. 1 a close 4th place.

The DVD "Ashes of American Flags" is one of the best concert movies I have ever seen. It is one that will convert anyone who has not checked this band out.
If you come to love their early stuff, then of course you will dig the DVD "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart," but that has more interviews, snippets, yadda yadda, less straight-on live stuff.

[Edited on 2/26/2014 by JimSheridan]

[Edited on 2/26/2014 by JimSheridan]

 

A Peach Supreme



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  posted on 2/26/2014 at 07:09 AM
Jim - your post is another reason why i love this community. thanks for a great post. im off to download a few now.

thanks!

 

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Extreme Peach



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  posted on 2/26/2014 at 11:09 AM

Agreed! great post, Jim. I enjoyed the read. I really like many Wilco songs, but also there are many that I find myself wanting to move on from. Sky Blue Sky is a favorite for sure. I prefer the dark country, mournful stuff to the punkier hard-driven tunes.

 

Universal Peach



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  posted on 2/26/2014 at 12:10 PM
Once again i want to thank everybody for their input and with a special mention of Jim's extensive overview of their back catalogue. A very nice read indeed!

 

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World Class Peach



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  posted on 2/26/2014 at 07:37 PM
Here are a few videos I get a kick out of.

This is "Casino Queen" from the first Wilco album, a very Stonesy rocker. The band has clearly had some relaxants. They do a nice rave-up in the middle:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCPHOGbhFXc

This next song from the Mermaid Avenue album is 95 seconds long. Feel the Rick Danko vibe as Jeff Tweedy sings his heart out on the Woody Guthrie lyrics:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVVJux_dnps


This is "Cars Can't Escape," which is an out-take, a really lovely song that shows the chemistry between Jeff Tweedy and Jay Bennett at its best, not long before their line-up broke up. Feel the John Lennon and Rick Danko influences. This video shows how the "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" sessions were full of experimentation with sounds and various takes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ez7V74MBNug


OK, one more: this is the current line-up doing a really wild song from the Sky Blue Sky album called "Side with the Seeds." Keep your eye on lead guitarist Nels Cline.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qltRRfHNXx4


 
 


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