I was going to respond to Chris’s post about his top 20… err… 40 albums of all time. As I started to think about it, I realized I had a bit more stuff to say. Maybe not the most interesting or important, but I’m going to get it all out of the way, and do “Tim’s Definitive Music Post.” It’s in two sections.
This is my top 10 albums. By top 10, I mean albums which are my favorite albums. Strong the whole way throughout. I can listen to them over and over and never get sick of them.
I’ve left off the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zep, etc., because personally they don’t do it for me. Others can sing the virtues of those guys. I think the albums on the list can go head to head with anything and stand strong.
Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen
This is it for me. The best. The perfect rock album. Sure, Rolling Stone doesn’t have it at number 1, but it is up there. It has it all. Cars, women, hopes, and dreams. You can tell Bruce truly believes in the majesty and power of rock and roll, and this album is proof of that.
The title track hits in as the 21st top song of all time according to Rolling Stone, which is quite feat considering it peaked out in the US charts at 23 at the time of its release. “Jungleland” is so epic it makes Braveheart look like Cheers. “Thunder Road” is another classic. I won’t mention others, but nothing is weak here.
Darkness on the Edge of Town – Bruce Springsteen
Ok, so I’m a big Bruce fan. I promise to keep other Bruce albums out of the list even though there are many other great ones. While Born to Run might be the best album ever,1 Darkness is probably my favorite. This album is intense and, well, dark. There is some hope here, but it doesn’t come easy.
“Badlands” and “Prove It All Night” are certainly the standouts for me, but even after listening to this album for most of my life, I still find new things with each listen, such as finally realizing how amazing a song like “Racing in the Streets” truly is. Live versions of the songs off of this album are mind-blowing. If you play in a band and care about your live show, I suggest hunting down a copy of the bootleg “Live in the Promised Land” or any other recording from Bruce’s ’78-79 tour and study your ass off.
Back in Black – AC/DC
These guys are pretty much the embodiment of Rock and Roll. Cars, women, sex, drugs; you name it, these guys sing about it. It’s rock stripped down to the bones: guitars, bass, drums, and screaming. In my mind, they are direct descendants of Chuck Berry. Great things have been said about this album (and band) by many others, so there’s no need for me to repeat.
The Joshua Tree – U2
Three of the first four songs on this album have to rank up there as the some of the best songs ever. The rest of this album doesn’t let down either, but then again, none of the albums in the list have weak spots.2 Though I only got this album in college, it certainly holds a spot in the top.
Definitely Maybe – Oasis
Those of you who want to talk shit about Oasis or Brit Pop in general can go suck it. You can hear the influence of the Beatles here? Do I care? If I wrote an album like this (as my first no less!), I think would be content for the rest of my musical career.
Weezer – Weezer
The Blue one. Pure pop genius, which is no surprise considering who produced it.3 They even mention 12-sided dice and a Dungeon Master’s guide. Nice.
The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses
When I first bought this album I couldn’t get into it. A couple years later, I finally grew to fully appreciate it. Its a bit chimey and a bit quiet at times, so just turn it up a bit.
The Cars – The Cars
I only got this in the last couple years, but the brilliance of the album immediately made itself evident.
Rage Against the Machine – Rage Against the Machine
Every time I listen to this album, I get pumped up. I know it sounds stupid and cheesy, but its true. When I was involved in athletics, this was one of the few albums that got played pre-game.
Later efforts by the band never quite captured the rawness of this first album.
The Great Twenty-Eight – Chuck Berry
It might be a compilation, but who cares. Listening to this album is listening to the birth of Rock and Roll.4 As a student of Rock, you owe it to yourself to listen to this album and let it sink in.
Honorable Mention and Personal Favorites
Not all of these bands have one great album. They also might not appeal to all; personal tastes to differ after all. However, I do think the following list5 has some great music on it, and if you are willing to expand your boundaries a bit, they are definitely worth checking out.
Naveed – Our Lady Peace
I’ve listened to this album for quite a while and it never gets old. Our Lady Peace never achieved this on their later albums. I personally think its a fantastic sounding album. Every instrument has its own place. The guitars a brilliant, the bass really drives the songs, and the drums, oh the drums. My favorite snare sound ever. Its like a damn thunder bolt. Check out “Julia” for a good example of it.6
Marah is great. A relatively unknown band from Philly, these guys play with heart. You can tell they put all they’ve got into their music. Kids in Philly has the classic Marah sound. Their big production, Float Away with the Friday Night Gods is pretty god damn good too, though it does get away from their sound a bit. Their latest, 20,000 Streets Under the Sky is a return to their roots, a quite effective return at that. Definitely one of the best albums of 2004 that made it into my collection.
Chronicle Vol. 1 – Creedence Clearwater Revival
Another compilation, but it really nails all the good bits. Look at the track listing. Recognize all the amazing songs on there. These guys were together for 4 mother fucking years. 4! In my book, “Fortunate Son” is one of the best rock songs ever.
Message in a Box – The Police
I never owned any individual albums, I just got the box set. It has everything they’ve done and its well worth the money, but it really blurred the distinction between albums for me. Not that I think the Police had the strongest albums ever, but they certainly have great songs, and they never really had any bad ones.
These two albums were like the Bass Bible to me.
Not much to say other than I like them a lot. Mike Ness has about 3 notes in his vocal range, but they are always the right 3 notes. If music is harder than this or Rage, I don’t want it.
I personally think all of Cracker’s albums are good. Clever lyrics, good music, and a healthy does of quirkiness thrown in to keep it fun.
Ian Brown has become one of my favorite artists in recent years. Once the Stone Roses broke up, I think it was suspected that John Squire, the “creative force” of the band (and incredible guitarist) would go on to do things while the rest of the members7 would never amount to much.
Ian Brown’s first solo album, Unfinished Monkey Business, pissed in the face of John Squire, and said a giant “fuck you” to everyone else. In my mind, he’s been making great music ever since, with each album having its own texture and theme.
I’m currently absorbing his latest, and I must say, its good.
Not much to say here. Not always the most consistent albums, but good songs scattered throughout with a very distinct sound. I just got the newest album. The jury is still out on it, but from the listen it got last night, I’d say it these guys have pasted their peak.
1 Ok, so maybe Bruce’s best album.
2 That is the point of the list in the first place.
3 Hint: the creative force behind #8 on this list.
4 Notice I didn’t say its like listening to the birth of Rock and Roll, it is the birth of Rock and Roll.
5 In no particular order.
6 “Julia” also happens to have one of most wicked snare rolls ever.
7 Ian Brown was the singer.