Day 84: The Coronavirus Countdown – 100 Days of Great Music

The staff of the College Football America Yearbook is on the road every weekend of the college football season, shooting games and gathering information for the following year’s book. That means a lot of driving and listening to a lot of music.

Earlier this year our College Football America Yearbook publisher Kendall Webb and our director of editorial content Chuck Cox put together ‘The Coronavirus Countdown – 100 Days of Great Music.’ Each of them sat down and compiled a list of 100 great albums. Their goal was not to select the ‘100 greatest albums of all time.’ It was simply to select 100 great albums to write about as they passed the time during quarantine and shelter-at-home orders.

This 2020 college football season will be unprecedented in so many ways. It’s very likely none of us will be on the road for games because, like most people, we’re trying to stay healthy. And we hope you are too.

So, for the next 100 days, we’re going to publish their countdown here at CollegeFootballAmericaPR.com (the list was originally published on Webb’s personal site, kendallwebb.net). Consider it the ultimate playlist for the ultimate college road trip — music for every taste, from every genre and from every decade of the modern era of music. When the staff of the College Football America Yearbook is back on the road, you can bet these will be some of the tunes we’re listening to.

And, if you missed the previous installments of our series, just click here to head to the Coronavirus Countdown — 100 Days of Great Music home page.

Here’s Day 84.

It’s interesting that Whiskeytown’s album Strangers Almanac comes up so close on the heels of Ryan Adams’ public apology.

Adams was called out in early 2019 by ex-wife Mandy Moore during the height of the #MeToo movement for his alleged mental abuse during their marriage. Several other women stepped forward to echo Moore’s claims, and Adams’ soon-to-be-released album Big Colors was quickly shelved.

Adams initially denied the stories vehemently, but then went mostly silent until he finally came forward with a public apology emailed to The Guardian, and he claims to have gotten sober while finally understanding the damage his actions have caused.

It sounded sincere. Moore, however, reacted skeptically, and who can blame her? Adams does manage to slip in the fact that he’s written enough music to fill half a dozen albums. (That’s another rub against Adams — that he releases way too much music even famously releasing three albums in a single year a few years back.) His history of empty, half-assed apologies, which he acknowledges, does make you question his motives. Only Adams knows if this is sincere or simply another attempt to revive his career.

Adams is, after all, a master manipulator with a narcissistic streak, and this may be his attempt to pull the wool over everybody’s eyes. Ultimately, however, Adams is no longer in control, and the public will decide if he is ever able to mount a successful comeback. In the meantime, Strangers Almanac remains one of two masterpieces that Adams has recorded to date, including Heartbreaker, which we featured on the first day of our countdown a few months ago. Almanac was recorded with his band Whiskeytown before he went solo and released Heartbreaker. Both albums included some fine collaborations — Emmylou Harris lent her vocals to Heartbreaker — and Alejandro Escovedo dropped by to take a vocal turn on Almanac’s “Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart.”

Escovedo is an interesting figure, a veteran of the punk scene who then became an early pioneer in alt-country. His 1992 solo debut Gravity was critically acclaimed when it arrived on the scene, and it’s a good choice for your bonus pick of the day.

— Chuck Cox and Kendall Webb

CHUCK’S ALBUM OF THE DAY

The Beastie Boys

Licensed To Ill (1986)

Why I Love It

Just as rap and rock and roll were forming a union with Run-DMC and Aerosmith getting together on “Walk This Way,” along came three Jewish white guys from New York City with something completely out of left field. Although the massive first single from the record, “Fight For Your Right” included power chords on heavy metal guitars, the album became an instant rap classic with some of the catchiest rhymes ever spit at the time. Produced and partly written by the legendary Rick Rubin, the record not only spawned monster hits that made the Beastie Boys a household name, it helped the genre become even bigger while it was still in its infancy and still mostly about having a good time. Licensed to Ill hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and had seven singles. More than anything, the record was flat-out sophomoric fun that could not have fit in better in the late 80s. As a senior in high school, this album was music to my ears, and I still love it today in 2020.

Album Highlights

“Girls,” “Fight For Your Right” and “Brass Monkey”

Kendall on Chuck’s Album of the Day

This album hit the market in late 1986, a banner year for country music and the new traditionalist revolution that was taking place. So, in all honesty, I didn’t pay much attention to The Beastie Boys as Steve Earle, Randy Travis and Dwight Yoakam had my full attention at the time. But looking back, it’s obvious that this was an album that’s at the core of much of what is still happening in hip hop and rock music today. It wasn’t the first melding of rap and rock, but from an album standpoint, it is certainly one of the most important. Hip hop and rock and pop artists have been looking for ways to connect and collaborate ever since, and even country music has joined the party. For better or worse, this album gave every act that followed the creative license to try cross over to the hip hop market and vice versa.

KENDALL’S ALBUM OF THE DAY

Whiskeytown

Strangers Almanac (1997)

Why I Love It

If 2019 was the moment the world quit paying attention to what Ryan Adams had to say, this is the moment where it started listening in the first place.

Strangers Almanac heralded the arrival of a young songwriting prodigy, and Adams was more than eager to step into the spotlight eventually hogging it from his bandmates entirely. But for a brief moment documented here, Whiskeytown was a great American band paving the way for the alt-country brat to become the star he craved to be.

While I love much of his solo work, Adams has never been a better songwriter than he was here over the course of an entire album with the possible exception of Heartbreaker three years later. This is a record that people will still listen to a hundred years from now.

Album Highlights

“Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart Tonight, “Houses On The Hill” and “Avenues”

Chuck on Kendall’s Album of the Day

This is another album I had no doubt that Kendall would include on his list. Otherwise, I might have found a way to squeeze it into my final 100. Whiskeytown released three fantastic studio albums. This one is a beautiful Americana record from start to finish that flexes the songwriting prowess of Ryan Adams. The music paints such vivid scenes that I feel like I can see them in my head when I close my eyes. It’s that authenticity that always brings me back to a record like this one. I love all three of the band’s albums, but this one is a true masterpiece.

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