One Star Music

Songs from albums that received 1 out of 5 stars (or less) in a record guide. Curated by Anthony Is Right.

One Star Music presents…Bob Dylan
You wouldn’t it know it from the way critics have cooed since before you were born, but Bob Dylan ruined songwriting. Where once composers were praised for their ability express the universal, Dylan used artful inscrutability to inspire a messianic fascination, corrupting folk and rock & roll into an era of egoist artsong that consumes Western culture’s intellectual elite to this day. For that reason we should probably ignore him until we can piss on his grave, but after 50 years of recording, he’s managed a few genuinely impressive moments that deserve recognition.
The first bit of light came in 1970, when the understandable self-loathing he’d grown after years of bamboozling the world came out in Self-Portrait. Crooning through two records of covers bracketed by wordless originals, Dylan finally acknowledged the hollowness of his wordplay, pointing his audience towards the songbooks of his superiors, from Gordon Lightfoot to Tin Pan Alley to Traditional. Naturally, the bourgeoisie either turned away or seethed in denial, and Dylan went back to his profitable poopery. Tragically, a collection of Self-Portrait outtakes, Dylan, was only released long enough to blackmail Bob back to Columbia Records. The live At Budokan is easily the most technically accomplished sampler of this era, if one is determined to investigate his “glory days” (more like snorey days).
After another decade mushing up the marketplace, Dylan had a second moment of clarity and decided to use his pulpit to express the wisdom of religious leaders who certainly didn’t know less than him. While his first faith-based work was distracted by the New Wave stylings of Mark Knopfler, Saved had the boomers’ barfy bard admitting there was a higher power than him, soul sisters and electric pianos testifying in agreement. Of course, the jackass couldn’t commit to such a notion, and gospel was eventually subsumed into his usual me-me rappin’.
Still, his hit-to-miss ratio did improve in the ’80s. Knocked Out Loaded almost gets that Self-Portrait magic back, thanks to songwriting collaborators and a couple dozen background vocalists, and his live collaboration with the Grateful Dead finds the artists surprising each other every step of the way. While a collaboration with Don Was sounded like Grammy balls in 1990, Dylan surprised everyone by releasing a collection of honestly silly business called Under The Red Sky. It was a promising start to the decade, until Kurt Cobain brought back the era of the “authentic” false messiah and UGHHHHHHHH. He’s just been a classy ratface ever since, selling his shit to folks who can’t crap for themselves. Like the man said, “don’t follow leaders, something parking meters.”
Full Spotify playlist
Individual tracks on YouTube:
Blue Moon *&%
Wigwam *&%
Going, Going Gone (Live) &^%
It’s Alright, Ma - I’m Only Bleeding (Live) &^%
Saved &%
What Can I Do For You? &%
Driftin’ Too Far From Shore %
Precious Memories %
Queen Jane Approximately (Live) %
Joey (Live) %
TV Talkin’ Song ^%
Handy Dandy ^%
*from albums panned in the Rolling Stone Record Guide (1977)&from albums panned in the New Rolling Stone Record Guide (1983)^from albums panned in the Rolling Stone Album Guide (1992) %from albums panned in The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004)

One Star Music presents…Bob Dylan

You wouldn’t it know it from the way critics have cooed since before you were born, but Bob Dylan ruined songwriting. Where once composers were praised for their ability express the universal, Dylan used artful inscrutability to inspire a messianic fascination, corrupting folk and rock & roll into an era of egoist artsong that consumes Western culture’s intellectual elite to this day. For that reason we should probably ignore him until we can piss on his grave, but after 50 years of recording, he’s managed a few genuinely impressive moments that deserve recognition.

The first bit of light came in 1970, when the understandable self-loathing he’d grown after years of bamboozling the world came out in Self-Portrait. Crooning through two records of covers bracketed by wordless originals, Dylan finally acknowledged the hollowness of his wordplay, pointing his audience towards the songbooks of his superiors, from Gordon Lightfoot to Tin Pan Alley to Traditional. Naturally, the bourgeoisie either turned away or seethed in denial, and Dylan went back to his profitable poopery. Tragically, a collection of Self-Portrait outtakes, Dylan, was only released long enough to blackmail Bob back to Columbia Records. The live At Budokan is easily the most technically accomplished sampler of this era, if one is determined to investigate his “glory days” (more like snorey days).

After another decade mushing up the marketplace, Dylan had a second moment of clarity and decided to use his pulpit to express the wisdom of religious leaders who certainly didn’t know less than him. While his first faith-based work was distracted by the New Wave stylings of Mark Knopfler, Saved had the boomers’ barfy bard admitting there was a higher power than him, soul sisters and electric pianos testifying in agreement. Of course, the jackass couldn’t commit to such a notion, and gospel was eventually subsumed into his usual me-me rappin’.

Still, his hit-to-miss ratio did improve in the ’80s. Knocked Out Loaded almost gets that Self-Portrait magic back, thanks to songwriting collaborators and a couple dozen background vocalists, and his live collaboration with the Grateful Dead finds the artists surprising each other every step of the way. While a collaboration with Don Was sounded like Grammy balls in 1990, Dylan surprised everyone by releasing a collection of honestly silly business called Under The Red Sky. It was a promising start to the decade, until Kurt Cobain brought back the era of the “authentic” false messiah and UGHHHHHHHH. He’s just been a classy ratface ever since, selling his shit to folks who can’t crap for themselves. Like the man said, “don’t follow leaders, something parking meters.”

Full Spotify playlist

Individual tracks on YouTube:

  1. Blue Moon *&%
  2. Wigwam *&%
  3. Going, Going Gone (Live) &^%
  4. It’s Alright, Ma - I’m Only Bleeding (Live) &^%
  5. Saved &%
  6. What Can I Do For You? &%
  7. Driftin’ Too Far From Shore %
  8. Precious Memories %
  9. Queen Jane Approximately (Live) %
  10. Joey (Live) %
  11. TV Talkin’ Song ^%
  12. Handy Dandy ^%

*from albums panned in the Rolling Stone Record Guide (1977)
&from albums panned in the New Rolling Stone Record Guide (1983)
^from albums panned in the Rolling Stone Album Guide (1992)
%from albums panned in The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004)

One Star Music Presents…Kiss: The Middle Years
In 1980, Kiss finally told the kids their favorite cat, Peter Criss, had run away. While a replacement pet was found (fox Eric Carr), the band overcompensated to the young’uns by releasing a practically prepubescent rock opera masterminded by Bob Ezrin. Humiliated by that neutered nonsense (which only connected with prudes and contrarian critics), guitarist/astronomer Ace Frehley soon blasted off the line-up himself.
With their sidemen off to make the hard rock equivalents of Dark Horse and Ringo The 4th, Gene and Paul undoubtedly wondered if they should get started on their Some Time In New York City and Red Rose Speedway. When the unapologetic Creatures Of The Night restored some of their lusty luster (thanks in part to the uncredited Ankh Warrior Vinnie Vincent), it must have been tempting to end the group on that relative high note.
And in a sense, they did. Despite the rise of MTV, the group daringly traded their clown/kabuki make-up for more subtle, traditionally feminine cosmetics. No longer isolating themselves from the rest of the music industry, Gene and Paul dropped all sci-fi pretensions, outing themselves as veteran hard rockers as horny and hard-hitting as any young men in the game (and nothing more).
It was a bold, ballsy move, leading to an era of unprecedented consistency. Lick It Up, Animalize, Asylum, Crazy Nights and Hot In The Shade were audibly Kiss, but also of their moment, serving the metal crowd on a more musical level and soon earning Gene and Paul the position of reliable elder statesmen. A top ten single in 1989 was a sign of their remarkable endurance, as was surviving the tragic loss of Carr and the return of Bob Ezrin on 1992’s Revenge.
Where most of their peers spent the ’90s crying bitterly about Nirvana on Where Are They Now? shows, Kiss showed grungies just how MTV Unplugged specials were done, with Peter Criss and Ace Frehley joining in on that victory lap (sadly unavailable on Spotify). Their chemistry reaffirmed, the original foursome decided to give the kids a history lesson, reapplying the make-up and issuing a reunion album, Psycho Circus. Impressively, the album sounds almost nothing like their early work, ignoring matters of the flesh to focus on their emotional relationship with their fanbase. If any audience had earned such a move, it was theirs.
Graciously accepting their redundancy, Ace and Peter returned to their solo careers, though Paul and Gene continue to wear the classic make-up as humble tribute to their collective legacy. While 2009’s Sonic Boom and the upcoming Monster may well be equal to the albums celebrated here, they represent a chapter the band has only begun to (aww)write!
Full Spotify Playlist
Individual tracks on YouTube:
Keep Me Comin’ *&
Danger *&
Exciter *
And On The 8th Day *
Burn Bitch Burn *&
Under The Gun *&
King Of The Mountain &
Love’s A Deadly Weapon &
Bang Bang You *
Turn On The Night *
Read My Body *
Cadillac Dreams *
Tough Love &
Spit &
We Are One &
You Wanted The Best &
*from albums panned in the Rolling Stone Album Guide (1992)&from albums panned in the New Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004)

One Star Music Presents…Kiss: The Middle Years

In 1980, Kiss finally told the kids their favorite cat, Peter Criss, had run away. While a replacement pet was found (fox Eric Carr), the band overcompensated to the young’uns by releasing a practically prepubescent rock opera masterminded by Bob Ezrin. Humiliated by that neutered nonsense (which only connected with prudes and contrarian critics), guitarist/astronomer Ace Frehley soon blasted off the line-up himself.

With their sidemen off to make the hard rock equivalents of Dark Horse and Ringo The 4th, Gene and Paul undoubtedly wondered if they should get started on their Some Time In New York City and Red Rose Speedway. When the unapologetic Creatures Of The Night restored some of their lusty luster (thanks in part to the uncredited Ankh Warrior Vinnie Vincent), it must have been tempting to end the group on that relative high note.

And in a sense, they did. Despite the rise of MTV, the group daringly traded their clown/kabuki make-up for more subtle, traditionally feminine cosmetics. No longer isolating themselves from the rest of the music industry, Gene and Paul dropped all sci-fi pretensions, outing themselves as veteran hard rockers as horny and hard-hitting as any young men in the game (and nothing more).

It was a bold, ballsy move, leading to an era of unprecedented consistency. Lick It Up, Animalize, Asylum, Crazy Nights and Hot In The Shade were audibly Kiss, but also of their moment, serving the metal crowd on a more musical level and soon earning Gene and Paul the position of reliable elder statesmen. A top ten single in 1989 was a sign of their remarkable endurance, as was surviving the tragic loss of Carr and the return of Bob Ezrin on 1992’s Revenge.

Where most of their peers spent the ’90s crying bitterly about Nirvana on Where Are They Now? shows, Kiss showed grungies just how MTV Unplugged specials were done, with Peter Criss and Ace Frehley joining in on that victory lap (sadly unavailable on Spotify). Their chemistry reaffirmed, the original foursome decided to give the kids a history lesson, reapplying the make-up and issuing a reunion album, Psycho Circus. Impressively, the album sounds almost nothing like their early work, ignoring matters of the flesh to focus on their emotional relationship with their fanbase. If any audience had earned such a move, it was theirs.

Graciously accepting their redundancy, Ace and Peter returned to their solo careers, though Paul and Gene continue to wear the classic make-up as humble tribute to their collective legacy. While 2009’s Sonic Boom and the upcoming Monster may well be equal to the albums celebrated here, they represent a chapter the band has only begun to (aww)write!

Full Spotify Playlist

Individual tracks on YouTube:

  1. Keep Me Comin’ *&
  2. Danger *&
  3. Exciter *
  4. And On The 8th Day *
  5. Burn Bitch Burn *&
  6. Under The Gun *&
  7. King Of The Mountain &
  8. Love’s A Deadly Weapon &
  9. Bang Bang You *
  10. Turn On The Night *
  11. Read My Body *
  12. Cadillac Dreams *
  13. Tough Love &
  14. Spit &
  15. We Are One &
  16. You Wanted The Best &

*from albums panned in the Rolling Stone Album Guide (1992)
&from albums panned in the New Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004)

Kiss, “Charisma” (Dynasty, 1979)

"Kiss’ classic period was now over. But Gene and Paul continued a humbler commercial scale, trying disco." Rob Sheffield, The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004)

One Star Music Presents…Kiss: The Early Years
If you think about it, Kiss are the American Beatles. Led by a cynical genius and a wide-eyed popsmith, each band took the youth of the world by storm with a striking visual aesthetic and an accessible pop-rock sound, only to transcend fad status thanks to an enduring songbook bolstered by contributions from their meditative-if-wooden lead guitarist and crooning pet of a drummer. Perhaps the reason people don’t make the connection is that Kiss mostly managed to stick to their primary subject - the pros and cons of rockin’ while romancin’ (and vica versa) - instead of coasting on pretentious nonsense and studio indulgence. Kiss might be the American Beatles, but the Beatles lacked the drive and determination to be the British Kiss.
This isn’t to say Kiss haven’t made some mistakes of their own. While their first three albums contain the toughest pop-rock mid-70’s NYC had to offer, much of this early material has been tainted by overplayed artifacts from their live shows, where the group’s focus is, for better or worse, more on showmanship than sound. Sadly, this extra-musical bombast began to bleed into the studio work, with producers Bob Ezrin and Eddie Kramer respectively pumping their sound with shtick and steroids on following albums.
Clearly aware of the box they found themselves in, the group tackled the artistic challenge of releasing four solo albums on the same day in 1978. While the relative negligibility of guitarist Ace Frehley’s album is underscored by its novelty disco hit, the other three asserted their individual sensibilities so strongly that fans likely assumed the group might abandon their collective self, and let the Kiss aesthetic survive as a myth and source of residual income. After all, the Beatles did!
From the proud title to the spry sound, Dynasty seemed to reaffirm the group’s endurance and determination to build upon it, with Ace coming into his own as a vocalist. But were they protesting too much? Turns out the taut, modern grooves on Dynasty and its follow-up Unmasked were mostly provided by session aces (pun intended) and not drummer Peter Criss, who tired of delivering his “gritty kitty” vocals at his bandmates’ black-tighted backsides. While his post-Kiss debut Out Of Control provided more than enough cat-eyed soul to satisfy fans, his departure had to signal the beginning of the end, right?
…to be continued
Full Playlist
Individual tracks on YouTube;
Kissin’ Time *&
Love Theme From Kiss *&
All The Way *&
Mainline *&
Getaway *&
Love Her All I Can *&
That’s The Kind Of Sugar Papa Likes ^%$
Kiss The Girl Goodbye ^%$
See You Tonite ^
Living In Sin ^
Take Me Away (Together As One) ^%$
It’s Alright ^%$
Charisma $
Hard Times $
Easy As It Seems ^$
Torpedo Girl ^$
By Myself &
Out Of Control &
*from albums panned in the Rolling Stone Record Guide (1977)&from albums panned in the New Rolling Stone Record Guide (1983)^from albums panned in the Rolling Stone Album Guide (1992)%from albums panned in SPIN Alternative Record Guide (1995) $from albums panned in The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004)

One Star Music Presents…Kiss: The Early Years

If you think about it, Kiss are the American Beatles. Led by a cynical genius and a wide-eyed popsmith, each band took the youth of the world by storm with a striking visual aesthetic and an accessible pop-rock sound, only to transcend fad status thanks to an enduring songbook bolstered by contributions from their meditative-if-wooden lead guitarist and crooning pet of a drummer. Perhaps the reason people don’t make the connection is that Kiss mostly managed to stick to their primary subject - the pros and cons of rockin’ while romancin’ (and vica versa) - instead of coasting on pretentious nonsense and studio indulgence. Kiss might be the American Beatles, but the Beatles lacked the drive and determination to be the British Kiss.

This isn’t to say Kiss haven’t made some mistakes of their own. While their first three albums contain the toughest pop-rock mid-70’s NYC had to offer, much of this early material has been tainted by overplayed artifacts from their live shows, where the group’s focus is, for better or worse, more on showmanship than sound. Sadly, this extra-musical bombast began to bleed into the studio work, with producers Bob Ezrin and Eddie Kramer respectively pumping their sound with shtick and steroids on following albums.

Clearly aware of the box they found themselves in, the group tackled the artistic challenge of releasing four solo albums on the same day in 1978. While the relative negligibility of guitarist Ace Frehley’s album is underscored by its novelty disco hit, the other three asserted their individual sensibilities so strongly that fans likely assumed the group might abandon their collective self, and let the Kiss aesthetic survive as a myth and source of residual income. After all, the Beatles did!

From the proud title to the spry sound, Dynasty seemed to reaffirm the group’s endurance and determination to build upon it, with Ace coming into his own as a vocalist. But were they protesting too much? Turns out the taut, modern grooves on Dynasty and its follow-up Unmasked were mostly provided by session aces (pun intended) and not drummer Peter Criss, who tired of delivering his “gritty kitty” vocals at his bandmates’ black-tighted backsides. While his post-Kiss debut Out Of Control provided more than enough cat-eyed soul to satisfy fans, his departure had to signal the beginning of the end, right?

…to be continued

Full Playlist

Individual tracks on YouTube;

  1. Kissin’ Time *&
  2. Love Theme From Kiss *&
  3. All The Way *&
  4. Mainline *&
  5. Getaway *&
  6. Love Her All I Can *&
  7. That’s The Kind Of Sugar Papa Likes ^%$
  8. Kiss The Girl Goodbye ^%$
  9. See You Tonite ^
  10. Living In Sin ^
  11. Take Me Away (Together As One) ^%$
  12. It’s Alright ^%$
  13. Charisma $
  14. Hard Times $
  15. Easy As It Seems ^$
  16. Torpedo Girl ^$
  17. By Myself &
  18. Out Of Control &

*from albums panned in the Rolling Stone Record Guide (1977)
&from albums panned in the New Rolling Stone Record Guide (1983)
^from albums panned in the Rolling Stone Album Guide (1992)
%from albums panned in SPIN Alternative Record Guide (1995)
$from albums panned in The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004)

David Bowie, “Bang Bang” (Never Let Me Down, 1987)

"Utterly out of touch with any current rock style. He worked harder on his concurrent Pepsi commercial." Rob Sheffield, SPIN Alternative Record Guide (1995)

One Star Music Presents…David Bowie
Though the former Davy Jones had already beat Mick Jagger’s “R&B dandy” game on a series of singles most conveniently collected on Early On (1964-1966), the pride and confidence in the mod musichall filling David Bowie’s self-titled 1967 debut (joined with concurrent singles on comps like Images 1966-1967) is truly remarkable. Tragically, the commercial merit of his strident synthesis of Syd Barrett and Ray Davies went unproven until the ‘73 re-release of “The Laughing Gnome,” at which point Bowie had already descended into an embarrassing hard rock burlesque. Though 1969’s David Bowie is tainted by the silly sci-fi strumming to follow (hence the re-release title Space Oddity), its less shticky psychedelia remains alluring. As for the clowning that followed, 1974’s David Live manages to redeem two LPs worth of tunes, thanks largely to daring, soulful rearrangements and saxophonist David Sanborn.
While the next batch of albums were undeniably influential on The New Wave Sound, hindsight reduces them to a turgid march towards the maturity of 1984’s Tonight. Just as diverse in its ingredients as any previous album - reggae, Tina Turner, Iggy Pop and ’60s schmaltz are all thrown in the mix - Tonight is the first in more than a decade to capture its cultural moment, rather than serve as an ungainly, pretentious attempt to transcend it. 1987’s Never Let Me Down is an uptempo reaffirmation of this breakthrough.
Tin Machine seemed a clumsy step back at first, but soon revealed itself as an honest yet avant exploration of rootless roots-rock, rather than some sad Spiders Of Mars sequel. Unfortunately, the follow-up is unavailable on Spotify, likely due to controversy over the stone pee-pees on the cover. 1993’s Black Tie White Noise found Bowie as on top of the zeitgeist as he was in the mid-’80s, its trip-hop beats suggesting an atypically erudite Sharon Stone movie.
Instead of regurgitating their gauche, new age lows (pun intended), a reteam with ’70s hanger-on Brian Eno led to the first truly challenging music of Bowie’s career. 1995’s Outside is not so much a “rock opera” as an experimental puzzle of story and song where “rock opera” is but the first clue to cracking it. I truly doubt anyone, even Bowie, has parsed it entirely, so it’s no surprise the follow-ups felt like commercial wheel-spinning, with the Capital A “Artist” eventually retiring to study Outside and wait for a media platform worthy of a sequel.
Full Playlist
Individual tracks on YouTube:
Take My Tip ^
I Dig Everything ^
The Laughing Gnome *&^
There Is A Happy Land *&^
An Occasional Dream ^
Memory Of A Free Festival ^
Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing (live)*&^
Rock’n’Roll With Me (live) *&^
Don’t Look Down %
God Only Knows %
Shining Star (Makin’ My Love) ^%
New York’s In Love ^%
Tin Machine ^
Crack City ^
I Feel Free ^%
Black Tie White Noise ^%
The Voyeur Of Utter Destruction (As Beauty) %
Segue - Ramona A. Stone/I Am With Name %
*from albums panned in the Rolling Stone Record Guide (1977)&from albums panned in the New Rolling Stone Record Guide (1983)^from albums panned in SPIN Alternative Record Guide (1995) %from albums panned in The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004)

One Star Music Presents…David Bowie

Though the former Davy Jones had already beat Mick Jagger’s “R&B dandy” game on a series of singles most conveniently collected on Early On (1964-1966), the pride and confidence in the mod musichall filling David Bowie’s self-titled 1967 debut (joined with concurrent singles on comps like Images 1966-1967) is truly remarkable. Tragically, the commercial merit of his strident synthesis of Syd Barrett and Ray Davies went unproven until the ‘73 re-release of “The Laughing Gnome,” at which point Bowie had already descended into an embarrassing hard rock burlesque. Though 1969’s David Bowie is tainted by the silly sci-fi strumming to follow (hence the re-release title Space Oddity), its less shticky psychedelia remains alluring. As for the clowning that followed, 1974’s David Live manages to redeem two LPs worth of tunes, thanks largely to daring, soulful rearrangements and saxophonist David Sanborn.

While the next batch of albums were undeniably influential on The New Wave Sound, hindsight reduces them to a turgid march towards the maturity of 1984’s Tonight. Just as diverse in its ingredients as any previous album - reggae, Tina Turner, Iggy Pop and ’60s schmaltz are all thrown in the mix - Tonight is the first in more than a decade to capture its cultural moment, rather than serve as an ungainly, pretentious attempt to transcend it. 1987’s Never Let Me Down is an uptempo reaffirmation of this breakthrough.

Tin Machine seemed a clumsy step back at first, but soon revealed itself as an honest yet avant exploration of rootless roots-rock, rather than some sad Spiders Of Mars sequel. Unfortunately, the follow-up is unavailable on Spotify, likely due to controversy over the stone pee-pees on the cover. 1993’s Black Tie White Noise found Bowie as on top of the zeitgeist as he was in the mid-’80s, its trip-hop beats suggesting an atypically erudite Sharon Stone movie.

Instead of regurgitating their gauche, new age lows (pun intended), a reteam with ’70s hanger-on Brian Eno led to the first truly challenging music of Bowie’s career. 1995’s Outside is not so much a “rock opera” as an experimental puzzle of story and song where “rock opera” is but the first clue to cracking it. I truly doubt anyone, even Bowie, has parsed it entirely, so it’s no surprise the follow-ups felt like commercial wheel-spinning, with the Capital A “Artist” eventually retiring to study Outside and wait for a media platform worthy of a sequel.

Full Playlist

Individual tracks on YouTube:

  1. Take My Tip ^
  2. I Dig Everything ^
  3. The Laughing Gnome *&^
  4. There Is A Happy Land *&^
  5. An Occasional Dream ^
  6. Memory Of A Free Festival ^
  7. Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing (live)*&^
  8. Rock’n’Roll With Me (live) *&^
  9. Don’t Look Down %
  10. God Only Knows %
  11. Shining Star (Makin’ My Love) ^%
  12. New York’s In Love ^%
  13. Tin Machine ^
  14. Crack City ^
  15. I Feel Free ^%
  16. Black Tie White Noise ^%
  17. The Voyeur Of Utter Destruction (As Beauty) %
  18. Segue - Ramona A. Stone/I Am With Name %

*from albums panned in the Rolling Stone Record Guide (1977)
&from albums panned in the New Rolling Stone Record Guide (1983)
^from albums panned in SPIN Alternative Record Guide (1995)
%from albums panned in The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004)

Cars, “You Are The Girl” (Door To Door, 1987)

"Reeks of half-hearted AOR professionalism." Rob Sheffield, SPIN Alternative Record Guide (1995)

One Star Music…from the SPIN Alternative Record Guide (Shortest)
One Star Music…from the SPIN Alternative Record Guide (Longest)
Above are two playlists respectively collecting the shortest and longest songs from albums that earned one star or less (or, rather, a rating of 1 or 2 out of 10) in the 1995 Spin Alternative Record Guide, assuming they were available on Spotify (one per artist).
Because the book covers only the cream of SPIN’s “alternative” canon (from ABBA to John Zorn), there are none of the across-the-board career pans found in a Rolling Stone album guide (the closest is a “4 for Core, 5 for Purple" hand-wringing over Stone Temple Pilots) and therefore far fewer accusations of One Star Music. Still, there was some alleged dross they told us to steer clear of. These critics wanted to keep fans from wasting their hard-earned CD money on lesser works by subcultural heroes. Today, that is no longer an issue.
The “Shortest” playlist features 37 tracks in a bit over an hour, the briefest Duran Duran’s whimsical “Flute Interlude” (0:33), the longest the last single off Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Liverpool (4:19). The “Longest” playlist milks 3+ hours out of 37 tracks, with the Germs’ irreverent cover of “Sugar Sugar” (3:46) and a late Can epic (15:30)* setting the parameters of endurance.
Appearing on the playlists: Adam Ant! Bauhaus! Black Flag! Blondie! David Bowie! Tim Buckley! Can! The Cars! Cheap Trick! Consolidated! Elvis Costello! Culture Club! The Cure! Depeche Mode! Duran Duran! Eazy-E! A Flock Of Seagulls! Frankie Goes To Hollywood! Frightwig! Galaxie 500! The Germs! Guided By Voices! Holy Modal Rounders! The Human League! Billy Idol! Motorhead! Iggy Pop! Public Image Ltd.! The Ramones! The Residents! The Runaways! Gene Simmons! The Smiths! Paul Stanley! Richard Thompson! Tin Machine! The Violent Femmes! And Not An Artist More!
*While a longer Can jam qualifies, the offending source Out Of Reach is paired on Spotify with another album - Innerspace or Can - that Simon Reynolds gave a respectable 6 in the Record Guide. While we will link to One Star albums graced with bonus tracks (which are predictably of One Star quality as well), we want to be clear which albums have been assailed, and therefore exclude multi-album collections that pair the guilty with the innocent.

One Star Music…from the SPIN Alternative Record Guide (Shortest)

One Star Music…from the SPIN Alternative Record Guide (Longest)

Above are two playlists respectively collecting the shortest and longest songs from albums that earned one star or less (or, rather, a rating of 1 or 2 out of 10) in the 1995 Spin Alternative Record Guide, assuming they were available on Spotify (one per artist).

Because the book covers only the cream of SPIN’s “alternative” canon (from ABBA to John Zorn), there are none of the across-the-board career pans found in a Rolling Stone album guide (the closest is a “4 for Core, 5 for Purple" hand-wringing over Stone Temple Pilots) and therefore far fewer accusations of One Star Music. Still, there was some alleged dross they told us to steer clear of. These critics wanted to keep fans from wasting their hard-earned CD money on lesser works by subcultural heroes. Today, that is no longer an issue.

The “Shortest” playlist features 37 tracks in a bit over an hour, the briefest Duran Duran’s whimsical “Flute Interlude” (0:33), the longest the last single off Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Liverpool (4:19). The “Longest” playlist milks 3+ hours out of 37 tracks, with the Germs’ irreverent cover of “Sugar Sugar” (3:46) and a late Can epic (15:30)* setting the parameters of endurance.

Appearing on the playlists: Adam Ant! Bauhaus! Black Flag! Blondie! David Bowie! Tim Buckley! Can! The Cars! Cheap Trick! Consolidated! Elvis Costello! Culture Club! The Cure! Depeche Mode! Duran Duran! Eazy-E! A Flock Of Seagulls! Frankie Goes To Hollywood! Frightwig! Galaxie 500! The Germs! Guided By Voices! Holy Modal Rounders! The Human League! Billy Idol! Motorhead! Iggy Pop! Public Image Ltd.! The Ramones! The Residents! The Runaways! Gene Simmons! The Smiths! Paul Stanley! Richard Thompson! Tin Machine! The Violent Femmes! And Not An Artist More!

*While a longer Can jam qualifies, the offending source Out Of Reach is paired on Spotify with another album - Innerspace or Can - that Simon Reynolds gave a respectable 6 in the Record Guide. While we will link to One Star albums graced with bonus tracks (which are predictably of One Star quality as well), we want to be clear which albums have been assailed, and therefore exclude multi-album collections that pair the guilty with the innocent.

One Star Music…from the 1992 Rolling Stone Album Guide (Shortest)
One Star Music…from the 1992 Rolling Stone Album Guide (Longest)
The playlists above respectively contain the shortest and longest songs from albums that only received one star (or less) in the 1992 Rolling Stone Album Guide. Each artist, from Paula Abdul to Yes, is limited to one entry, though numbers from each of the three eligible Kiss solo albums are included.
While tracks from the “shortest” playlist (128 songs over 5+ hours) range in length from 0:17 (Andreas Vollenweider’s ironically obnoxious “Hush - Patience at Bamboo Forest” to 15:50 (side 2 of Lou Reed’s intentionally obnoxious Metal Machine Music), the songs on the “longest” playlist (128 songs over 14+ hours) range even further, from a 2:32 Bobby Vee Christmas carol to side 2 of Jethro Tull’s A Passion Play, clocking in at a peculiarly near-parallel 23:32. Also eerie: both playlists feature a cover of “Hey Jude.”
Offending artists include: Aerosmith! Appolonia! Asia! Pat Benatar! Chuck Berry! Blue Oyster Cult! Boy George! Canned Heat! Johnny Cash! Chicago! Commander Cody! Cutting Crew! The Damned! Devo! Dio! Electric Light Orchestra! Melissa Etheridge! Fear! Foghat! Debbie Gibson! The Happy Mondays! Husker Du! Jethro Tull! Grace Jones! Kenny G! The Knack! John Cougar Mellencamp! Eddie Murphy! New Riders Of The Purple Sage! Poison! Jim Reeves! David Ruffin! Michelle Shocked! Spandau Ballet! Steppenwolf! Stephen Stills! Barbra Streisand! Talk Talk! Tiffany! Twisted Sister! 2 Live Crew! Vanilla Fudge! Sarah Vaughn! Whitesnake! George Winston and many, many more!

One Star Music…from the 1992 Rolling Stone Album Guide (Shortest)

One Star Music…from the 1992 Rolling Stone Album Guide (Longest)

The playlists above respectively contain the shortest and longest songs from albums that only received one star (or less) in the 1992 Rolling Stone Album Guide. Each artist, from Paula Abdul to Yes, is limited to one entry, though numbers from each of the three eligible Kiss solo albums are included.

While tracks from the “shortest” playlist (128 songs over 5+ hours) range in length from 0:17 (Andreas Vollenweider’s ironically obnoxious “Hush - Patience at Bamboo Forest” to 15:50 (side 2 of Lou Reed’s intentionally obnoxious Metal Machine Music), the songs on the “longest” playlist (128 songs over 14+ hours) range even further, from a 2:32 Bobby Vee Christmas carol to side 2 of Jethro Tull’s A Passion Play, clocking in at a peculiarly near-parallel 23:32. Also eerie: both playlists feature a cover of “Hey Jude.”

Offending artists include: Aerosmith! Appolonia! Asia! Pat Benatar! Chuck Berry! Blue Oyster Cult! Boy George! Canned Heat! Johnny Cash! Chicago! Commander Cody! Cutting Crew! The Damned! Devo! Dio! Electric Light Orchestra! Melissa Etheridge! Fear! Foghat! Debbie Gibson! The Happy Mondays! Husker Du! Jethro Tull! Grace Jones! Kenny G! The Knack! John Cougar Mellencamp! Eddie Murphy! New Riders Of The Purple Sage! Poison! Jim Reeves! David Ruffin! Michelle Shocked! Spandau Ballet! Steppenwolf! Stephen Stills! Barbra Streisand! Talk Talk! Tiffany! Twisted Sister! 2 Live Crew! Vanilla Fudge! Sarah Vaughn! Whitesnake! George Winston and many, many more!

Prism, “See Forever Eyes” (See Forever Eyes, 1978)

"A dab of Genesis, a smidgen of Yes…For synthesizer clones only." Dave Marsh, The New Rolling Stone Record Guide (1983)

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