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Old August 27 2008, 07:57 AM   #1
Star Treks
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Underappreciated Tracks on Classic Albums

For some reason the topic has been running through my mind lately, so I thought I'd start a thread discussing great/underrated/underappreciated songs on generally well-regarded albums. These are tracks you love but usually aren't at the top of the list of the great or most popular songs on a given classic album. Here are some of my nominees:

"Martha My Dear" by The Beatles, from The Beatles

The White Album is amazing, but one of my favorite songs not only from that album but of all time is Martha My Dear, primarily a McCartney composition. Listen, I know this isn't the Beatles at their most revolutionary, intense, or thought-provoking, but I just think this song is utterly charming, sweet without being cloying, moving in its simple beauty. I love this track dearly.


"Hotwax" by Beck, from Odelay

I think Odelay is one of the five greatest albums of the 1990s, even if I'm not so hot on the fact that Beck is a scientologist. This album is easily as influential as Nirvana's Nevermind. While the most well-known tracks from the album (The New Pollution, Devil's Haircut, Jackass, Where It's At) are all classic (it was The New Pollution that got me hooked on the album), I think the little-discussed second track, Hotwax, is probably a defining song on this album; that is to say, this track is the most representative of what is great about Odelay - its utter eclecticism. This one track features traditional Mexican accordion, hip hop, soul, techno, even a bit of country - but none of it sounds strained or silly. It's all mixed together with unbelievable taste, and deserves to be more popular.


"Kings" by Steely Dan, from Can't Buy A Thrill

Steely Dan's debut album is one of my favorite albums of all time; nearly every song is a winner. It has a couple pretty well known tracks (like Do It Again and Dirty Work), but I'm frankly surprised that Kings doesn't get more radio play - classic Steely lyrics, a couple great hooks, a superb guitar solo, and a really solid construction from beginning to end, this is one of Steely Dan's best songs.


What are your nominees for underrated gems on classic albums? And for those of you who know the albums I've discussed, I'd love to hear your thoughts on my choices as well.
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Old August 27 2008, 08:51 AM   #2
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Re: Underappreciated Tracks on Classic Albums

I'm not sure whether this song really gets the shaft or not when people talk about Queen's "A Night at the Opera", but "The Prophet's Song" was the first thing I had to think about when I saw the thread. It's an amazing piece IMHO which can take a while to get used to but which is terrific once you're into it. I've never seen it mentioned specifically.

I also had to think of another piece of Queen music although the album itself isn't that highly regarded, I guess. The very last track, "It's a Beautiful Day - Reprise", segues into IMHO a fascinating, very unusual and very beautiful piece of instrumental music (about a quarter of an hour long, if I'm not mistaken). It's a hidden track which completely took me by surprise, and I've never really seen it mentioned in reviews or other places.
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Old August 27 2008, 01:33 PM   #3
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Re: Underappreciated Tracks on Classic Albums

As I've said all along, I'm not a fan of the concept of 'underrated' or 'underappreciated' art. It seems to me that any work of art gets exactly as much appreciation as it deserves. To argue otherwise is to argue that there is some absolute standard of artistic value to which some people, mysteriously, have access, while others do not. To claim that something is 'underrated' is merely to say that our own tastes differ from most other people's.

I do think, however, that some music albums are just so good that the 'excellent' songs overshadow the merely 'very good' songs. The whole album sets such a high standard that the listener becomes spoiled, and forgets just how good the 'second-rate' tracks are compared to what's on most other albums. Only in time, when the shock of the new wears off, do listeners begin to appreciate just how good these 'second-rate' tracks are. So our appreciation of these songs grows with time.

I would say that "Holiday in the Sun" by the Sex Pistols falls into this category. It's their fourth and forgotten single, after "Anarchy in the UK," "God Save the Queen," and "Pretty Vacant," and it rocks. A great opening track for a great album.

Another neglected gem from a classic punk-rock album would be "Forward to Death" by the Dead Kennedys, from Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables LP. It too could have been a fourth single, after "California Ueber Alles," "Holiday in Cambodia," and "Kill the Poor." It's not as innovative as those other three, or even "Chemical Warfare". But it's just so angry and hostile, so relentless and hard-driving, that it epitomizes hardcore punk in a single song.
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Old August 27 2008, 01:33 PM   #4
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Re: Underappreciated Tracks on Classic Albums

mercury blues from Miller's FLY LIKE AN EAGLE. never got much airplay at all.
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Old August 27 2008, 04:09 PM   #5
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Re: Underappreciated Tracks on Classic Albums

^ And a much better song than the poppy shit that did get airplay.

My nominations:

When The Levee Breaks - Led Zeppelin IV
Can't You Hear Me Knockin' - Sticky Fingers/The Rolling Stones
Sparks - Tommy/The Who
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Old August 27 2008, 06:32 PM   #6
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Re: Underappreciated Tracks on Classic Albums

Can I nominate 'Christie Lee' from Billy Joel's 'An Innocent Man'? He released half the album as singles, but somehow missed that song. The lyrics are clever and the music delightfully lustful.
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Old August 27 2008, 06:52 PM   #7
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Re: Underappreciated Tracks on Classic Albums

Camelopard wrote: View Post
As I've said all along, I'm not a fan of the concept of 'underrated' or 'underappreciated' art. It seems to me that any work of art gets exactly as much appreciation as it deserves. To argue otherwise is to argue that there is some absolute standard of artistic value to which some people, mysteriously, have access, while others do not. To claim that something is 'underrated' is merely to say that our own tastes differ from most other people's.
While I don't want to get in a big debate over the idea of "absolute artistic merit" I will say that something might still possibly be underappreciated for other reasons. I'll just give one.

Think about it: one individual record company exec decides to heavily promote one song, get it played on the radio, release as a single, etc. and so this song enters the public consciousness and is better known than another song. But if that other song has merits and the potential to be popular and well-loved, maybe even more well loved than the single that was released, we could argue that the song is underappreciated simply because it also deserved the chance to be promoted heavily, to find its level of success. Maybe deserved isn't the right work - it just had potential equal or greater to another song, but didn't reach that potential because of the decisions of one or a few people.

On a more basic level, of course it's all about our own opinions - when I call something 'underrated' or 'underappreciated' I can either mean simply that if things had been done differently, the song had the potential to be better-known or even become a radio standard (which I think, based on the economics of popular music, is almost undeniably possible for many songs), or on the other hand in a more important way, when I use these terms what I am saying is that i find meaning, value, beauty, or something else of worth in a work of art that I believe others may be able to value too but have not, either because they don't even know about the existence of it, or because some people just tend not to focus on things which - if they did - focus on, they would enjoy more.

It's all opinion, of course, as is almost any discussion of art if it strays away from purely practical applications of it (one could have a legitimate, quantifiable discussion about which of two songs is, on average, better at getting people to buy more if played in a supermarket; but any discussion about which of those two is better is going to necessarily involve opinions, even if it is only in choosing what criteria determine 'better').
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Old August 27 2008, 08:10 PM   #8
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Re: Underappreciated Tracks on Classic Albums

I don't even know where to begin. The first songs that came into my head were When the Levee Breaks, No Quarter and Supernaut, but are they actually underrated?

If I had a penny for every time I found a song was underrated I'd be stinking rich by now.
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Old August 28 2008, 01:12 AM   #9
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Re: Underappreciated Tracks on Classic Albums

-"In the City" by the Eagles on The Long Run
-"Across the Universe" by the Beatles on Let it Be
-"Givin the Dog a Bone" by AC/DC on Back in Black
-"Ice Cream Man" by Van Halen on Van Halen
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Old August 28 2008, 01:54 AM   #10
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Re: Underappreciated Tracks on Classic Albums

- "The Loom of the Land" on Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds' Henry's Dream

- "The Letters" on Leonard Cohen's Dear Heather
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Old August 28 2008, 02:08 AM   #11
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Re: Underappreciated Tracks on Classic Albums

Maxwell's Silver Hammer - I don't know why I like it, and you can't possibly call it a "rock" song, but it's one of my favorite tracks on Abbey Road.


And now for possibly one of the most underappreciated songs of all time:

Trip Through Your Wires from The Joshua Tree - It sounds slightly out of place on the album, and it took forever for it to grow on me, but I love it.
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Old August 28 2008, 02:33 AM   #12
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Re: Underappreciated Tracks on Classic Albums

HappyDayRiot wrote: View Post
I don't even know where to begin. The first songs that came into my head were When the Levee Breaks, No Quarter and Supernaut, but are they actually underrated?

If I had a penny for every time I found a song was underrated I'd be stinking rich by now.
Those are some of my favourite songs on Houses Of The Holy and Four Symbols by Zep; and Black Sabbath's Volume 4 respectively.

I'm not quite sure if those are underrated.
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Old August 28 2008, 02:49 AM   #13
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Re: Underappreciated Tracks on Classic Albums

"Mercy Street" from Peter Gabriel's album So.
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Old August 28 2008, 05:52 AM   #14
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Re: Underappreciated Tracks on Classic Albums

Good pick, Baba - almost named that one myself. Peter Gabriel was a childhood idol of mine and I still find more to appreciate in his music today.
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Old August 29 2008, 01:54 AM   #15
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Re: Underappreciated Tracks on Classic Albums

Star Treks wrote: View Post
Good pick, Baba - almost named that one myself. Peter Gabriel was a childhood idol of mine and I still find more to appreciate in his music today.
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