For quite some year now, I’ve been posting articles ranking discographies from many of my favorite musicians and bands. But what do I think are the best albums of all time? Well, that’s far from easy! My list changes often, especially as I’ve been going through the book 1001 Albums You Must Before You Die. (I’ve only listened to over 260 of those so far.) So, here’s a new annual feature: My 10 Favorite Albums series!
(Note: I’m limiting myself to one album per artist.)
10) Carole King: Tapestry My mom introduced me to this album through the sheet music for it. While my taste in music has grown away from hers for the most part, I still enjoy this album. It’s got a great story-telling quality to it on songs like “Smackwater Jack” and “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”. Some of the songs are more well-known through other artists, for instance, “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman” is really more Aretha Franklin’s song than hers. But as a songwriter, Carole King is great.
9. The Beatles: Abbey Road Abbey Road came at a crossroads for the Beatles. They had hit a point where the entire quartet was growing apart. Many fans have pointed to the symptoms as if there was only one thing that ended it: John Lennon’s romance with Yoko Ono, George Harrison not being able to show his true potential as a songwriter, or maybe creative tension between Paul McCartney and John Lennon. I think it could be a combination of all of these things. I don’t know if this really was intended to be the final album, but if it was, it was a great one to go out on.
8. Sonic Youth: Goo: Before Nirvana, there was Sonic Youth. This quartet lingered in obscurity for years before hitting it big with Daydream Nation. But for me, Goo is their best work, showing off both Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon’s skills as guitarist and bassist. They even got Chuck D of Public Enemy to guest star on “Kool Thing”, probably one of the oddest pairings.
7. The B-52’s: Cosmic Thing: By the time they released Bouncing Off the Satellites, the B-52’s seemed ready to call it quits. They’d lost Ricky Wilson, pretty much the heart of the band, to AIDS. No one thought we’d hear anything again from one of the 80’s best party bands. But we were all wrong. One new record deal later, and the B-52’s broke from New Wave to mainstream success. Even the closing instrumental “Follow Your Bliss” is a treat, as it was meant to be a tribute to their fallen friend.
6. Def Leppard: Hysteria Rick Allen had gotten into a bad automobile accident after an overdose, and it seemed that Def Leppard would have to hire a new drummer if they wanted to continue. But Rick was adamant to prove he could still play, even with only one arm. They got Mutt Lange, the same producer who had helped Pyromania rocket up the charts. The result was one of the hardest rocking albums of the 80’s.
5. The Clash London Calling: While the Sex Pistols started the Punk Rock revolution, I feel The Clash was the band that defined Punk as not only a subgenre of rock, but a whole new movement. Its raw energy was the band’s call to arms, ushering a new musical anarchy.
4. David Bowie The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars: Picking the best David Bowie album is nearly impossible, because he had so many phases. Do you go with Ziggy Stardust in the 70’s? Let’s Dance’s transition into the mainstream? Or techno-driven material like Heathen? For me, this is definitive Bowie. There will never be a man like Bowie, who was able to change himself like a true chameleon, but never became less relevant.
3. Rush Moving Pictures. This album marked the end of Rush as a prog rock trio and poised them as a band that was not going to let the 80’s pass them by. Geddy Lee added keyboards and synthesizers to the sound, but still rocked that bassline like nobody else. Gone were the suites that took up whole sides, but we still had excellent music.
2. U2 Joshua Tree: Bono was not afraid to show his Catholic faith, even if it didn’t mean they would get mainstream success, and this is him at his most spiritual. “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” is my anthem, a reminder that I do not belong on this world, as is “Running to Stand Still”. “Bullet the Blue Sky” has Edge roaring about the apartheid in South Africa, and even though it dates the album, it’s still an awesome note. One lone note hammered over and over and echoing like a missile right into your speakers.
1. Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon It broke the record for longest time on the Billboard charts: 700 weeks straight! That’s nearly 14 years! Throughout its life span, rock changed from vinyl records, to 8-track tapes, to cassette tapes, to CD’s, and each medium meant fans were changing with the times, but unwilling to part with such a classic concept. In fact, this is still considered Pink Floyd’s definite work so many years later.