Ok, so you know this doesn’t mean anything, right?
My top 25 (couldn't do it in 20, folks) albums of all time is not about technical prowess or critical favorites. It’s simply a list that documents those albums in my collection that I never tire of, original LP’s (greatest hits were, of course, omitted from playing) that continue to move me time and time again. Other albums that I have been introduced to recently which I am currently enjoying greatly will have to wait a couple of years to get on the list. It wasn’t easy, and I am not completely satisfied with my choices, but if I don’t stop analyzing now I’ll never stop and it’ll never get published.
Some of the artists listed below have many great albums that could/ should have been included but I decided to limit it to one per, else the Beatles would have dominated, naturally. I also started in the 60's and limited it to R&R, which means that great albums by Miles Davis, Coltrane, Sinatra, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley were not included, sadly.
It was a painful process leaving out many, many great deserving albums, especially those by The Mats, DK’s, Underworld, John Prine, Wilco, Big Star, Squeeze, Buzzcocks, The Jam, Lloyd Cole, Leftfield, Van Morrison, ABC, AC/DC, Talk Talk, Supergrass, Stooges, Thomas Dolby,Specials, Smiths, LCD Soundsystem, Prefab Sprout, Renegade Soundwave, Leonard Cohen, Jazz Butcher (that one really hurt!), Gang Of Four, Frank Zappa, Eels, Doors, Roxy Music, Nick Cave, Dave Edmunds, My Morning Jacket, etc etc etc etc. If I did this list again today, it would probably be different. But oh well. This list is NOT in order, that exercise would have driven me mad. And please remember that it’s just my opinion as I am today, totally subjective.
Here goes. Guys, have at me! But after you blast my choices I challenge you to comment by listing YOUR own top LP's.
BEATLES, WHITE ALBUM: The sheer variety of styles on this album has made it the easiest Beatles album to go back to time and time again. The fact that the band was writing some ace tunes at the time didn’t hurt, either.
BEACH BOYS, PET SOUNDS: The original mono version of this album still sounds great, and it deserves all the accolades thrown at it over the years. If I was doing a “Top Songs Of All Time List”, God Only Knows would be in the top 2.
KLF, WHITE ROOM: There is something very subversive and mysterious about this album, and I continue to find new sonic marvels every time I put it on. For an electronic album released in the early 90’s, it hasn’t aged a day. To my ears, anyway.
KINKS, VILLAGE GREEN PRESERVATION SOCIETY: I love virtually anything Ray Davies and Co. put out between the years of 1965 to 1983 (State Of Confusion). And although I am currently grooving to their 70’s catalogue, this is the album I always come back to.
BOB DYLAN, JOHN WESLEY HARDING: I HAD TO PICK ONE Dylan, of course, and this is my personal favorite. I have come to respect the guy’s talent immensely, but it’s taken me almost 40 years! I’ll probably catch hell for not picking Blonde On Blonde, or Hwy 61, but I don’t care. Philbert!
BOO RADLEYS, GIANT STEPS: I have played this album a good 300 times in it’s entirety. Stylistically it’s all over the place, with elements of 60’s psych, power pop, dub and noise. It remains, since 1993, one of the most consistently satisfying listens in my entire collection.
CLASH, LONDON CALLING: It was between this and Sandinista!, but in the end it was no contest. This is the album where the boys grew up. They were too good to stay within the boundaries of ‘punk’. The songs are stellar (not one dud among the 19 tracks), the sequencing perfect.
DAVID BOWIE, HUNKY DORY: Bowie returns to singer/songwriter territory, but uses a vast array of musical styles to keep us interested. Not as thematically consistent as Ziggy, but much more…human, I guess.
ELVIS COSTELLO, ARMED FORCES: It was a toss up between this and This Years Model, and this won by a hair. It has a fuller more sophisticated sound compared to the former and contains my favorite Costello track in Oliver’s Army. And Accidents Will Happen kicking off side one: Brilliant!
FLAMING LIPS, YOSHIMI BATTLES THE PINK ROBOTS: My favorite new band of the last 15 years. Yoshimi is the place where analog synthesizers and acoustic instrumentation live in complete harmony with one another. Just as emotionally naked and affecting as the Soft Bulletin, but more focused. Forget about the so-called ‘concept’ and just enjoy the Lips best ever set of tunes!
HAPPY MONDAYS, PILLS, THRILLS AND BELLYACHES: Madchester at it’s peak. There is no other album that perfectly sums up the druggy, chaotic rave scene better than this. That alone wouldn’t place this album in my top 25, but the energy of the band and the amazing set of songs does. Unfortunately they blew their load with this one…
PRIMAL SCREAM, SCREAMADELICA: OK, this album…The cliché is that the song sequence perfectly mirrors the experience one has while tripping on the psychoactive drug ecstasy. It starts with a Stonesy gospel sing along and ends with the dream-like meditative Shine Like Stars, and in between you have some of the most trippy and melodic rock and roll ever produced. The only thing that would have made it better would have been to add the EP only (Dixie-Narco) “Screamadelica” track. As Allmusic states, “There's no overestimating the importance of Screamadelica.”
JOE JACKSON, LOOK SHARP: The angry young piano man writes his best set of songs in this fantastic debut album. I absolutely love Jumpin’ Jive and am also partial to Night and Day, but there is no denying the power pop brilliance of Jackson’s first, and best, album.
LOU REED, TRANSFORMER: I will no doubt be called a heretic for this, but I actually prefer this solo outing from Lou Reed to any VU album. Really, it’s probably tied with the first VU (Banana album), but I happen to be listening to this more lately. Some say it’s too ‘Bowie’, and perhaps musically it is, but the lyrics are pure Reed. It’s my favorite skuzzy rock and roll album, one that makes you feel delightfully dirty after listening, but satisfied.
MERCURY REV, DESERTERS SONGS: You either love this album or you hate it, there is no in-between. I happen to love it. Even the bow-saws! It’s one of those albums, like many on my list, that demands total attention and immersion, but once you dedicate the time, you get it and it never leaves.
NICK LOWE, JESUS OF COOL: I was a late bloomer to the Nick Lowe party, I am sorry to admit. There is no other album on this list that has risen higher and faster than this one. It’s ‘pure pop’ at it’s absolute finest, from start to finish. One of the most talented, underrated songwriters of any generation, and this album is his finest achievement.
PET SHOP BOYS, INTROSPECTIVE: The most underrated in the PSB cannon, but definitely their best produced (Trevor Horn) and, I think, their most enjoyable album overall. PSB, an electronic pop duo that is loved by the critics, adored by their fans and abhorred by rock ‘purists’. The amazing Left To My Own Devices is one of my favorite tracks ever. It’s a fun album, full of drama and real emotion. Phil would hate it.
PINK FLOYD, THE WALL: It’s overproduced, overly dramatic, overlong and just a little self serving. All reasons why I actually prefer this to Dark Side Of The Moon, or any of the other Floyd albums, for that matter. Like the White Album it has many different elements that shouldn’t work together as one cohesive art piece, but they somehow all fit perfectly. I dunno, I went back and forth between this and Dark Side…can I change my mind?
POP WILL EAT ITSELF, CURE FOR SANITY: This band was my favorite during my late teens/ early 20’s and remains a favorite to this day (just not THE favorite). Cure contains catchy, immediate singles and excellent album cuts which highlight the claustrophobic mood of the album. From allmusic.com: The one line from "X Y & Zee" says it best about the album and the Pop Will Eat Itself experience: "Let's get lost/In intergalactic punk rock hip-hop."
QUEEN, A NIGHT AT THE OPERA: It’s well documented that I am a big fan of Queen Mach I (1973-1980), and there is no question that this is the standout. Bohemian Rhapsody has been talked about so much it would be pointless and redundant to write about it here. The album tracks are what make this THE complete Queen album for me: Death On Two Legs, ‘39, Good Company and the epic Prophet’s Song.
ROLLING STONES, LET IT BLEED: The sound of the 60’s exploding, pure and simple. Gimme Shelter is so full of menace that Martin Scorsese uses it in most of his films, and Monkey Man is the aural equivalent of snorting a line of coke! Rock and roll at it’s purest…and nastiest.
SUPER FURRY ANIMALS FUZZY LOGIC: Pop, art rock, psychedelic and punkish angst is what this album is all about. Great harmonies and off kilter vocals dominate, but like most of their albums it is an extremely fun listen from front to back.
TEENAGE FAN CLUB, BANDWAGONESQUE: This should have been bigger than Nevermind, and it is certainly more of a benchmark album than that lauded release. A combination of Big Star harmonies and grungy guitar attacks, this album got me back into guitar bands. Allmusic states: “The gold standard of the early-'90s power pop revival, in its own way Bandwagoneque was as much a benchmark as contemporary records like Nevermind and Loveless”
XTC, SKYLARKING: One of the most underrated bands in the history of Rock and Roll! I love every thing these guys have done (well, almost--1st album, not so great), but this sunny, psychedelic, pastoral landmark is by far my favorite. Dear God (the single was added to the album after it became an unexpected hit) is only one of many tuneful, original cuts on this magnificent mid-80’s LP.
THE WHO, TOMMY: Sure Who’s Next has more street cred, but this remains my favorite Who album. Dumb concept, musically daring (an ‘Overture’ and an ‘Underture‘, totaling over 15 minutes in length?!?) and containing many, many great songs, especially Amazing Journey/ Sparks. Pretentious? Absolutely. Still enjoyable after all these years? Abso-freakin’-lutely!
**Interesting to note what percentage of my favs fell into each specific decade...**
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