Salt Lake City has a great underground music scene, as well as an incredible vinyl music scene. I recently came across an article in Forbes that outlined the top three best-selling vinyl records in every state. For Utah, they were “Thriller” by Michael Jackson, “Chronicle” (aka 20 Greatest Hits) by Creedence Clearwater Revival and“Revolver” by The Beatles.
Why these three albums in particular? I listened to them all to try and demonstrate my thoughts on why Utah has shown such interest in these three records.
20 GREATEST HITS
This top-selling record from the roots rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival has a lot of the same characteristics of “Thriller,” but more in the realms of swamp rock. “Chronicle” is a curated encompassment of the classic CCR sound, with aggressive blues guitar influence and inspiration to go back to your roots.
“Down on the Corner” rocks the signature bassline and has some of the best vocals of the band’s entire discography. A more emotional and tender side of CCR is revealed in “Have You Ever Seen The Rain,” which is an acoustic track that could be influenced by the Rolling Stones. Any Hocus Pocus lover would recognize “I Put a Spell on You,” with its haunting instrumentals. The track is eerie while keeping an upbeat tempo, which is surprisingly impressive.
Any CCR fan could identify “Proud Mary” in a heartbeat. The hard beats and soulful rhythms give that gospel sound to this track that is unmistakably trademarked to the band. “Up Around the Bend” is almost psychedelically similar to a Jimi Hendrix guitar solo, but it blends perfectly into the folk rock genre. This, alongside the final track, is an excellent example that shows off CCR’s signature sound.
This album conveys the talent that resides in the band, showing that they are able to produce so many variations of sound within such a narrow genre. They show so many different versions of folk rock that you didn’t even know existed. For the same reasons as Jackson, that curating of classic sounds is what landed this album on the list.
“Thriller” is Michael Jackson’s album people know the most content from. The record starts with “Wanna Be Startin’ Something,” which is very powerful and starts the record out on exactly the right note — the Michael Jackson note. He sounds like he is having a blast in this track, which makes it a fun listen. I am surprised that this track didn’t get more recognition, but that is probably due to its length, which was too long for radio play.
A big bonus of this album is that it showcases a wide variety of Jackson’s abilities. From the gentle sensuality of “The Girl is Mine” featuring Paul McCartney, to the classic character piece “Thriller,” this album has it all. The former track, alongside “Human Nature” and “The Lady in my Life,” gives the record a good balance of styles within his repertoire.
I think this album is really on the list because it serves as an unofficial “best hits” album. It contains the songs Michael Jackson’s career that people can most readily identify, and encompasses that classic Jackson sound. It is full of the underlying organ beats and vocal yelping additives that characterize Jackson’s music, and make them identifiable by only an introduction. “Thriller” includes “Beat It,” “Pretty Young Thing” and “Billie Jean,” making it one that many want in their collection.
Unlike the others, this album is not a compilation of a band’s “best ofs.” It is actually one of the more unique albums from The Beatles. However, John Costa, who teaches History of Rock and Roll at the University of Utah, claimed that this album was the most successful creative endeavor executed by the band.
He said it was “first influence of hard edges blues sound from the band, most likely influenced by Bob Dylan.” He also hinted that this record became more psychedelic than the others as the band was introduced to LSD. For me, this record was less about the classic harmonic sounds, and more about highlighting outside influences to their music.
Classical music comes into several of the tracks, including by means of orchestral “wall of sound” techniques in the familiar “Eleanor Rigby.” The band created a gorgeous orchestral track to go along with their music, but were able to put their own British pop twist on the sound. This track is one of my favorites because of the stunning violin descants. Brass sections also are highlighted on the album in “For No One” and “Got to Get You Into my Life.” Trumpets add a modern flare to these songs that was not present in previous records produced by the quartet.
Psychedelic influences can’t be denied in “Revolver.” Classic “Yellow Submarine” is one of the more lighthearted tracks, but the lyrics show evidence of vivid trips and psychedelic endeavors. Those influences are also present in sweeping guitar solos, ambiguous ambient sound and discordant instrumentals.
My favorite aspect of this album is the Eastern influence. The use of the sitar in nearly every song, and resonant vocals add an entirely new dimension to the brilliance of The Beatles. Rapid drums add intensity and the blend with the blues influences from the era are incredibly interesting. Those blends are what make this album the “most successful creative endeavor,” as Costa put it. At the risk of sounding editorialized, this record made the list because of sheer genius creativity and influence blending techniques executed by the band.