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Friday, May 4, 2012

The Top 15 Most Cocaine-Influenced Albums of All Time, Nos. 5-1

Posted By on Fri, May 4, 2012 at 3:30 AM

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See also:

* The Top 15 Most Cocaine-Influenced Albums of All Time, Nos. 15-11

* The Top 15 Most Cocaine-Influenced Albums of All Time, Nos. 10-6

Here we are, at the end of the blizzard: the final installment of our list of the most coked-out records ever made. Less an endorsement than an assessment of the diverse, usually negative effects of white powder on music-making, this project has so far reviewed the works of Waylon Jennings, Sly and the Family Stone, Art Pepper, and Raekwon, among others. Join us as we conclude with the most cocaine-influenced albums of all time, numbers five through one. And remember, kids: drugs are bad.

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5. Black Sabbath, Vol. 4

In 1971 England's Black Sabbath opened up its third album, Master of Reality, with "Sweet Leaf," an ode to marijuana. In one fell swoop the band invented stoner rock, and publicly expressed what turned out to be a prodigious taste for drugs. It was different foliage, however, that would define 1972's Vol. 4. Recording in Los Angeles, flush with Master of Reality cash, the members of Sabbath had access to the finest in processed coca leaves, and these mounds of cocaine resulted in an album that was almost named "Snowblind" after the amounts of blow that fed the sessions. (That title remains as a song). Between Master of Reality and Vol. 4, bassist Geezer Butler was seen performing with a white bass emblazoned with a sticker that read "Enjoy CoCaine" in the shape of the Coca-Cola logo. If that wasn't enough to solidify the album's place in the 'caine canon, there's the thin, uneven production -- the result of drug-induced shifts in perceived volume -- and the prevalence of rushing, spiral guitars and flares of percussion, which stand in contrast to the previous album's down-tuned sludge. The record contains its share of heavy-riff Quaalude-influenced come-down jams, but is most remembered for a feeling of divergent chaos rather than hazy dread. And, besides, only a coke-addled band would think Vol. 4 is a compelling title. -- Tony Ware

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4. Oasis, Be Here Now

Perhaps because the British press overvalued them in the first place, Oasis' bloated, ridiculous third record is now considered one of history's great follies over there, an act of hubris and outsize ambition somewhere between Spielberg's 1941 and the very idea of a teensy biscuit-barrel of a country commanding a worldwide empire. Even Noel Gallagher acknowledges that coke fucked this one up. The songs are all too long, and the guitars are gooped onto each other like a seven-layer dip. "Fade In/Out" sounds like musical theater Bon Jovi, and the endless melt-your-brain anthem "All Around the World" is quite literally about how we all need to "spread the word" and "make a better day." But a clutch of ace rock songs in the middle all hold up, and the void that coke must have been intended to fill lends Be Here Now a rare and touching thematic consistency. Again and again, the gibberish of the lyrics gives way to one human complaint: songwriter Noel Gallagher's inability to come up with lyrics. "Sing me something new," goes one song. "I ain't got much to say," goes another. The deeply meaningless opener strings cliches and Beatle song titles together and then asks on the chorsues "All my people right here, right now/ D'you know what I mean?" No, not really. It's like a concept album about inarticulateness. Imagine you're suddenly Europe's biggest rock stars, and you've got to get the record done, and you've got absolutely shit-all to say. You'd coke up, too. -- Alan Scherstuhl

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3. David Bowie, Station to Station

On the title track of David Bowie's Station to Station, he proclaims with strangulated difficulty, "It's not the side effects of cocaine" -- but stories of the album's fabled 1975 recording sessions in Los Angeles suggest the contrary. Bowie's diet is said to have consisted of cocaine, peppers, milk, and four packs of Gitanes cigarettes a day, leading to a bizarre state of paranoid delusion and classic signs of cocaine psychosis. He suspected musicians of being FBI agents or vampires, referred to Hitler as the first rock star, claimed his semen was stolen by witches, and engaged in Crowley-influenced black magic, all of which informed the record's dense lyrical content. -- Sam Lefebvre

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2. Clipse, Lord Willin'

"Players we ain't the same / I'm into 'caine and guns." So begins the song that opens the album that begat the modern coke-rap movement. Two former dealers, Malice and Pusha T, drop uncut raps that pitch from their prior life, indict their whole family in the white powder business ("Young Boy"), and end with a song of repentance: "I'm Not You" once more pledges their allegiance to the cocaine cause, as Malice states, "Rappers is talkin' to me as if we in the same boat/ I tell them quick, no, I move coke." You might argue that follow-up Hell Hath No Fury is more distilled, but Lord Willin' started the avalanche. -- Phillip Mlynar

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1. Fleetwood Mac, Tusk

What do you do if you've just made the highest-selling album of all time? You make the most expensive album of all time. While doing tons of blow. The first album that cost more than $1 million to record, Tusk may have not come close to matching the commercial success of Rumours, but it did cement Fleetwood Mac's reputation for hedonism. Listening to Tusk is like intermittently eavesdropping on monologues from three people who have been sniffing heinous amounts of white powder. The album's dry, brittle production and talkin'-to-you songs teem with the agitated self-importance of a dedicated coke-head. Its jarring, uncertain song progression must have seemed crazy to fans who were expecting another radio-friendly record like Rumours. But Tusk bears the quiet intensity and obsessive detail of a band that was both very skilled and very much on drugs. That makes it a rarity here: The coke album whose indulgences only get more interesting with repeated listening. -- Ian S. Port

See also:

* The Top 15 Most Cocaine-Influenced Albums of All Time, Nos. 15-11

* The Top 15 Most Cocaine-Influenced Albums of All Time, Nos. 10-6

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