Recently I've engaged in an awesome learning experience. It started with a simple facebook post:
This hyperbolic statement of course drew a number of responses, the most interesting of which came from my friend Itamar:
His challenging of my original thesis thus inspired the project:
100 - Odyssey and Oracle by The Zombies
The first song on this album really intrigued me but eventually I just simply got bored. By the time I was listening to Brief Candles I wanted nothing more to do with this album. If this is your favorite album you probably drink a warm glass of milk before you go to bed every night
Edit: the album finishes strong, but I'm still not adding it to my Spotify library
And "Time of the Season" is an amazing track that has been sampled a lot
99 - There's a Riot Going On by Sly and the Family Stone
Didn't really need a list to tell me that this album is amazing, but I forgot how eclectic it is. The funk is real.
98 - This Years Model by Elvis Costello & The Attractions.
I can't... I just hate that whiny white boy pop punk accent that so many rock bands choose to use. Like, no one fucking sounds like that when they talk, why sing like that? white people...
97 - The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan
White people campfire music. For the record I enjoy Bob Dylan and I enjoy this album but calling this music is a stretch, he's barely singing. Why not include Maya Angelou on this list?
96 - Tommy by The Who
This album sounds like the soundtrack to an animated film. For some reason I feel like this is the album a dude listens to right after getting a vasectomy.
95 - Bitches Brew by Miles Davis
This album is an hour and 45 minutes and there are only 7 songs. Think about that. These songs are super experimental and out there. Heroine is a helluva drug apparently
94 - 40 Greatest Hits by Hank Williams
You have got to be fucking kidding me. First of all you would have to pay me per song to listen to all 40 of the songs on this album. This is some antebellum shit. Being a black dude I get scared when I hear music like this, like someone's about to lynch me while gleefully whistling one of these songs.
93 -Sign O' the Times by Prince
OMG this is the first album I feel actually belongs on a top 100 albums list
92 - Buddy Holly Lives
Listening to this I just feel like Marty McFly is just gonna jump up on the stage and start playing Chubby Checker and I'm never gonna hear music like this again.
91 - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John
Outside of the Prince album this is the most musical album I've encountered yet. Obviously known for Benny and the Jets, this album has quite a few tracks that you have to put at the height of his career.
90 - Talking Book by Stevie Wonder
Any album that starts with a Fender Rhodes is obviously gonna wind up a classic. Superstition is also on this album which is arguably his best song. Also Maybe your baby is a deep cut that is absurdly good, quite surprised it hasn't been sampled in some deep house tracks
89 - Dusty in Memphis by Dusty Springfield
So "Son of a Preacherman" is obviously the track that gets pulled out of this album but I have been most surprised of all the albums I've listened to thus far how much I like this album. Can't really believe she's English and she sounds like the white Aretha. So much soul. Also F breast cancer which took two of the more amazing singers (also Perfect Angel by Minnie Riperton did NOT make this list... are you fucking serious?)
88 - At Folsom Prison by Johnny Cash
Does Johnny Cash always sing about cocaine and shooting people or was he just playing to his prison audience? There are some funny and charismatic moments in this performance and the audience is fucking ecstatic which makes sense because they’re in jail. I would probably have to be locked up to listen to this album again but its a big step up from Hank Williams if you’re going for this genre.
87 - The Wall by Pink Floyd
I'm not even halfway through this and I have to say my music taste has been permanently altered. This is not an album as much as a movie for blind people. There is so much rich sound going on here its so impressive. Babies crying, kids choirs and shit Wow. If I weren't at work I would be getting high as hell.
86 - Born in the U.S.A. by Bruce Springsteen
I just think this music is pretty generic. Like this has its place on the soundtrack of various 80s movies and the Cruisin' USA video game but not making its way into my Spotify library any time soon.
85 - Lady Soul by Aretha Franklin
86 - I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You by Aretha Franklin
I think that this ranking clearly indicates what is wrong with the Rolling Stone. It doesn't pay enough respect to women singers and genres outside of Rock. There is no way in hell one of the greatest voices of all time should be this low on a list. And there are less than a handful of women ahead of this on the list. deplorable.
83 - Axis: Bold As Love by The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Honest to god the way Jimi fucks with stereo sound on this album had me legitimately nauseous as I listened. I would recommend listening to this album on speakers and not on headphones, definitely not while walking and listening to headphones. That being said I was unfamiliar with this album and it has some very amazing qualities. One moment that really stands out is when he said "I'm the one who's got to die when it's time for me to die so let me live my life the way I want to." I got serious chills
82 - Harvest by Neil Young
look, I like harmonica as much as the next guy, but I will never listen to another Young song again. Why is this motherfucker so melancholy? He was 27 when he made this and he sounds like a 80 year old Eeyore who ran out of anti-depressants. This is just sad shit to listen to, and the song a man needs a maid is... I don't even know man. just read these lyrics:
I was thinking that maybe I'd get a maid
Find a place nearby for her to stay.
Just someone to keep my house clean,
Fix my meals and go away.
If this is your favorite album I have a hot-line just for you.
81 - The Clash
Rolling Stones named this the best album of the 80's at the end of the decade. I'm not gonna count all of the albums that came out in the 80s that are listed after this, let's just say there's probably over 20. So I don't know what the fuck they were smoking. As far as punk rock goes though this is solid. They're real angsty shits those brits, and you get some points for that alone
80 - Imagine by John Lennon
Quite honestly, this album is not as good as I remember it being the last time I listened to it, which is not to say that it isn't very good. I think that listening to all of these albums has really widened my definition of what a great album is and I think there is something lacking here I can't quite put my finger on. Perhaps its just three other Beatles. At the end of the day what stands out most about this albums is the lyricism. There seems to be a layer of self importance that at times seems a little contrived, and given the circumstances that this album was produced under that doesn't come as a surprise. Ultimately the good outweighs the mediocre here, but if I ranked this among Beatles albums it would come in very low.
79 - Zeppelin II
Now THAT is how you rock band. From now on, that's how you play rock and roll. Had me from the minute the sticks hit the drum face.
78 - Otis Blue by Otis Redding
Have you ever thought: Man I just wanna hear Otis Redding sing the hits? Well I've got something for you
77 - Back in Black by ACDC
When I was in high school my marching band played Back in Black and I loved playing it, it really got people hype. What I didn't know was that when I was playing trumpet I was replacing the voice of some asshole banshee from hell. That is not how you rock.
76 - Purple Rain by Prince
To be honest I've been setting milestones in this list so that I can make it through the entire list and this was a big milestone. I can't really tell you anything you probably don't know about this album because everyone loves Prince... I hope
75 - Star Time by James Brown
I am listening to this now but obviously listening to a fucking 71 track career greatest hits collection is out of the scope of this project. Screw Rolling Stones for putting this on the list, despite how awesome it is. We know James Brown had a great career. Including this on a greatest albums list is like if I were to ask you for a list of the best pets and you put mammals at the top of the list. RS editors really piss me off
74 After The Gold Rush by Neil Young
🙄 This sounds like a mix between the Dracula Musical from Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The pervert old man from Family Guy. This guy actually sings quite out of tune, and that's not cute, its offensive to my ears.
73 - Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin
I would argue that Zeppelin II and this album should be swapped in the list but I was happy to listen to both regardless. This album really shows how awesome the drummer is, and the band's uncanny ability yo keep the rhythm driving while staying just behind the beat, almost like Blues. Just overall excellent musical execution
72 - Superfly by Curtis Mayfield
This album is one of only a few soundtracks on this list and deservedly so. What doesn't make sense is the Bodyguard is not on this list. Funky Bass Lines are at a premium on this list so this was a great break from the Rock. This album is also sampled all over the place in hip hop and R&B.
71 - Graceland by Paul Simon
I have always loved Simon and Garfunkel but had followed very little of Simon's solo career. This album is an eclectic soundtrack to and African safari where a white guy/gal from Iowa discovers just how big the world is and returns to their homeland to tell everyone about it. "You Can Call Me Al" is obviously a jam too
70 - The Stranger by Billy Joel
😎😁 This album is fucking rad. I knew very little about Billy Joel beyond Piano Man, and boy was I missing out. The music on this album gives it the feeling of something that should always be played in a symphony setting. It has strong musical theater vibes but not in a shitty Idina Menzel way. The lyrics are just so good and delivered so well with the amazing composition that it gives you the feeling you're listening to the soundtrack to a musical.
69 - Zepplin IV
If there is one thing that comes out of this entire experiment its that I have become a pretty big Led Zeppelin fan. I'm pretty new to Rock in that I had never really listened to the classic rock bands and I know I still have a few to go but I'm pretty sure The Beatles, Queen, Pink Floyd, Zeppelin are the top 4 based on what I've heard and what I've heard white people say
68 - Off the Wall
I'm sorry 68 is too low for this record. Seriously look at the track list, there is nothing but hits. I have argued in the past that this album could actually be better than thriller, but I think pop culture just swallowed Thriller up more. Regardless, if you gonna put MJ albums on here don't put them lower than 50. I don't think that you can justify 67 albums better than this, there just hasn't been that much good music made
67 - Kid A by Radiohead
This is the best stretch of 3 albums encountered on this list, and hopefully a sign of things to come. This album and this group is a cornerstone of both Rock and Electronic and the influence can be felt across many genres including some of my favorite artists from James Blake to Mr. Ocean himself. Wanna see something cool: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClTDuQNZAkM
66 - Moondance by Van Morrison
Van Morrison is a good musician and this is album is a great blend of Classic Rock, funk soul and some jazz. But this album is not better than off the wall. thats a fucking fact.
65 - Back to Mono by Phil Spector
Here we go again with another fucking greatest hits collection. You suck Rolling Stone. I asked you to show me video of Lebron's greatest game and you showed me a 48 minute highlight reel. In your defense this box set is dedicated to the record producer and not the artists and is actually an amazing collection of songs, but for the purposes of this exercise I am not listening to 4 boxes of songs. I will put a bookmark in it
The spector set does contain one of my favorite songs of all time: https://open.spotify.com/track/0qO9TvO5ML4HIP1NqjU7WA
64 - Sticky Fingers by The Rolling Stones
If you look up Classic Rock in the dictionary you should probably find this album. Thats sort of a good thing and a bad thing. A lot of the rock albums I've listened to have included elements of other music. Not to say that this album doesn't just seems like a lot less. I love Can't you hear me knocking and Wild Horses even though Adam Levine did it better: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jAc_4ejeZmw
63 - Achtung Baby by U2
This album is classified as Arena Rock. Wikipedia describes arena rock as "material inherently designed for large audiences, arena rock developed from their use of more commercially oriented and radio-friendly sounds." It is also known as "Dad Rock". I hope that when I do become a father one day I'm not ruining my kids music taste by playing them this bullshit. You wanna know where garbage like Zedd comes from? THIS. People love garbage songs with singable hooks that they can all scream at the top of their lungs in Bill Graham together. Thanks Obama.
62 - Appetite for Destruction by Guns n Roses
This album is somewhere between Back in Black and Physical Graffiti to me on the spectrum of good hard rock albums. Its is close enough to Physical graffiti to still be a good album. Sweet Child O' Mine is a great song. These guys really rock pretty fucking hard, feels like the air guitar was invented at a Guns n' Roses concert. I also love when people use apostrophe in place of letters for words n' shit
61 - Greatest Hits by Sly and the Family Stone
See all of my comments above about greatest hits albums. This one is good, but still doesn't belong on this list. Per Wikipedia "Greatest Hits was designed by Epic Records to appease consumer demand and keep the band's name and music in the public's eye. " So basically their record label wanted to make money off the band during an 18 month hiatus from making music and rolling stone ranked this above all of their albums? MAkes sense right?
60 - Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band
WTF did I just listen to? This album is only for people who do LSD every day.
59 - 20 Greatest Hits by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Another greatest hits album brought to you by the lazy motherfuckers at RS. I actually didn't listen to this and instead listened to their debut album. It was surprisingly good white people music with a great version of I put a spell on you to open and a quintessential white crowd pleaser Suzie Q. When white people hear songs titled after ladies they go crazy. Think Sweet Caroline
58 - Beggar's Banquet by The Rolling Stones
remember how I said in my review of the last Stones album that it didn't contain that many elements of other music? Well this album does and that makes it in my opinion significantly worse. Some people should just stick to their strengths I guess
Guys I just started Songs in the Key of Life and I think the list just turned a significant corner.
57 - Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder
This is a long album packed with some of Stevie's best songs. Knocks me off my feet is arguably one of the greatest love songs ever made. "As" is also an amazing song as is Isn't she lovely., Sir Duke and Pastime Paradise. This was probably the first Stevie album I ever heard and I knew all the lyrics to all of the songs when I was like 5 or 6
56 - Elvis Presley
Elvis has one of the most fun voices to listen to, period. He fucking nails Tutti Frutti! (side-note, who knew Little Richard was alive?) I didn't really ever think about the fact that Elvis Presley was the "King of Rock and Roll", as in he birthed popular Rock & Roll from an era of doo wop and classic vocalist shit like the rat pack and motherfuckers singing in the still of the night. It's possible that only he could have done this (because of his looks and general swag) which got me thinking: Who's responsible for where the pop charts are today? While Rihanna and Beyonce are the most dominant pop artists around, the chart that I attached shows that perhaps lil Wayne or Eminem could be the "King of Whatever the Fuck You Wanna Call This Shit"
55 - Electric Ladyland by Jimi Hendrix
I don't believe in coincidence, so while listening to this album and I distinctly recognized a sample from Nights from Blonde 3 or so minutes into 1983 I quickly realized that I was near the middle of this list, and that riff that he samples from Hendrix is dead in the middle of his album (right when the song turns into another song) I felt like Matthew McConaughey was in some multi dimensional bookshelf in space trying to tell me I'm doing the right thing. But regarding this album Jimi really does make awesome music but its such drug music. If I am ever off the deep end on some Leaving Las Vegas bender I would probably be in some hotel with the curtains drawn listening to Jimi Hendrix on repeat. Unfortunately, thats pretty much how he died, which I'm sure shocked no one.
54 - The Birth of Soul by Ray Charles
For those who don't know I was in a Ray Charles cover band in high school called "The Ray Charles Experience". LaRoyce Hawkins does a better Ray impression than Jamie Foxx, and we did some awesome gigs. I have railed against including greatest hits in this list and this one upsets me the most because if you are going to reduce one of the greatest musicians of all time to one album in the top 100 and its a greatest hits album it should rank much higher
53 - Meet the Beatles
The Beatles are great, but this is album is overrated, and doesn't belong so high on this list. I just keep coming back to Off the Wall. Here you have two of the greatest pop artists of all time, MJ and the Beatles and somehow this list has the Beatles 7th best ranked above Michael Jackson's second (in my opinion first) album. I think its absurd to have so many Beatles albums ranked so high, this one apart from a few songs sounds like a demo tape compared to their other albums.
52 - Al Green's Greatest Hits
Boy are these some amazing songs. I would obviously rather that the other two Al Green albums on this list be ranked higher in lieu of this obvious make up call. Everything I said about Ray Charles above applies here.
51 - Bridge over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel
Bridge over trouble water is an album that really stands out on this list for its diversity of sound. It reminds me of the total lack of world music on this list, as this album contained some of the first tracks that were heavily influenced by the genre. The harmonies that these guys make are rare for a duo and this album definitely belongs on a best of list. Still a reminder of how much diversity this list lacks.
50 - Here's Little Richard
Wow, this was his first album! It's no coincidence that Elvis covered this song, as they both are of the few rock singers with the vocal control to deliver this song well. Berry, Richard and Elvis really did take Rock and Roll music up a level and the great songs of that era were definitely an inflection point in history. I was surprised to realize Little Richard was alive to be honest, which makes him one of the most important musicians alive by a great margin.
49 - At Fillmore East by The Allman Brothers band
White people, we are gonna need to have a chat about this one. A year or so ago I saw Phish at Bill Graham (who was coincidentally promoting the event this album was for). This belongs on this list as much as the iPhone recordings from that Phish show do: not at all. I get that this is supposedly one of the best live rock albums of all time, platinum and shit, but I just don't think American rock is that good. I'm not saying this is bad, I'm just saying that putting a bonafide jam session on a best albums list is granting a stupid amount of respect to a band that I honestly didn't know existed until 30 mins ago.
48 - It takes a nation of millions to hold us back by Public Enemy
Behold, the ONLY rap album in the top 100. This album is so dope and significant, as evidenced by how often its sampled and referenced in hip hop. It is however misleading for it to solely represent hip hop in this sample. Considering how music has changed in the last 20 years this album contains more historical context than most of the albums I've encountered. Just for a moment let me point out albums are ranked way too damn low:
Ready to Die (134)
The Chronic (138)
Straight Outta Compton (144)
The Low End Theory (153)
Paid in Full (228)
The Marshall Mathers LP (244)
The Blueprint (252)
College Dropout (298)
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (314)
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (353)
Life After Death (476)
The Score (469)
And these albums were not included at all (Tupac was left off this list):
Good Kidd Maad City
So Far Gone
808s and Heartbreaks
Get Rich or Die Trying
The Chronic 2001
The Don Kaluminati
All Eyez on Me
Things Fall Apart
So Rolling Stone thought it was a good idea to leave off Tupac and select as the best album one that features a dude who is far more well known for a reality TV show than rapping.
47 - A Love Supreme by John Coltrane
This list obviously doesn't contain enough jazz, but this album is a great representation of exactly what makes jazz so amazing. The free flowing nature of these songs really does sound like Coltrane's stream of consciousness. I recall being in jazz band in middle school and having only really listened to more structured jazz music standards before hearing this album and being completely taken aback by the artistic nature of it. If you don't get jazz you won't get this record, but that sounds like a personal problem.
46 - Legend by Bob Marley
Another day another greatest hits album. It is a great thing that its raining outside because whenever its raining I for some reason love to play Marley. I think we can universally agree that all humans love Bob Marley and so its a little confusing to me to have this album so low on the list. Regardless, Exodus at 169 is embarrassing to say the least Rolling Stone.
45 - The Band by The Band
I had literally no idea what this album or this band were going in and all in all left with a pretty good impression. I found out this album wasn't recorded in a traditional studio which explains the folky and off the cuff feel of the album. I'd have to give it another listen to come up with a solid determination of whether it belongs this high on the list, but I think that says something about the album in and of itself.
44 - Horses by Patti Smith
Patti Smith is an absolute bad ass. I had almost forgotten that women made music after listening to this list for so long, but Smith certainly belongs in this echelon. I must at the same time blame her for all of the shitty white girl spoken word out there, as I now understand who they are channeling while annoying the shit out of me. Some things should be left to the pros. Her blend of poetry and music gives her a far wider range of expression than either would alone. To translate for black people: imagine if Floetry was one person and just seamlessly transitioned from speaking to singing.
43 - Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd
I kind of just want to stop listening any further on this list and just keep playing this album on repeat. First of all, every single song on the album is amazing. Secondly, like the Wall, this album has a visual aspect to it. Thirdly, the number of different instruments, sound effects and general noise included in this album make it literally impossible to place in a genre. This album is certainly in a league of its own and the first non-greatest hits album that I've listened to where I thought "yeah that might be better than Blonde".
42 - The Doors by The Doors
This album is one of the best versions of American Rock. Jim Morrison has the perfect Venice, CA dude rock voice. These are songs that are perfect for karaoke and not in a bad way. The album should be listened to with headphones as they recorded it pretty exquisitely and its harder to appreciate on speakers. I'm really coming to appreciate Psych Rock as a genre. This is also another example of trends that I've been noticing that is the self-titled amazing debut album that serves both as an introduction and often stands as an artists best album.
41 - Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the Sex Pistols by Sex Pistols
I wanna make this very clear. I do not like punk music and I never will. Its kinda funny to think that punk rock is the white people equivalent to gangsta rap music. Then again it makes complete sense. Listening to punk rock I feel like those same old white people when they listen to rap and say "I don't get it, what is he saying, why are they swearing so much, why is the bass so loud?" Maybe if this was Stranger Things Season 2 episode 7 I would be like "yeah! lets throw on some Sex Pistols and some dark eyeliner and go rob motherfuckers." But it ain't so I ain't. A great fact about this album is that many people thought a title including bullocks was so indecent that they just listed it on charts as "____ by the Sex Pistols". That's fucking bullocks.
40 - Forever Changes by Love
This is continues on the theme of how American Rock is just not that good. On the surface Love and The Doors have a lot in common, but one is interesting and the other is boring as hell. It's not a surprise to me that this band received little success during their career as I think that there is nothing particularly interesting about this music that was made in an era when a lot of far more important music was being made. After one listen this appears to have no business on this list.
39 - Please Please Me by The Beatles
The Beatles sure got out of the gates fast with this album. Twist and Shout is the essential early Beatles song and it makes me wonder how completely mind blown people must have been the first time they experienced this band. They had a long way to go before being Abbey Road good, but the signs are definitely all there.
38 - The Anthology by Muddy Waters
Another day another greatest hits album. This one is especially infuriating because I love Muddy Waters and we need more blues in the world, but I got a little overwhelmed after listening to over two hours of blues. This is a great introduction to blues if you know absolutely nothing, and Waters story is fascinating, but this is not an album.
37 - Hotel California by Eagles
Wow, this album is incredible. I have been talking a lot of shit about American Rock knowing full well that the Eagles were coming to make me take back all of it. If you're anything like me you totally forgot how fucking amazing of a song Hotel California is. Starting the album that way makes it basically impossible for this album to fail. The Eagles make me proud to be an American.
36 - Tapestry by Carole King
This is one of my favorite albums I've listened to on this list. Partly, because I've been so deprived of the female voice by the assholes at Rolling Stone, but also because this album is a fucking hit factory. Hearing Carole King go Ooo baby in 'I Feel the earth move' gives me a feeling I would like to bottle up and sell at a massive profit (or at least give to people I like). Also didn't realize Carole King had written You Make me Feel Like a Natural Woman, letting Aretha sing it first was the right decision, but you can tell its actually her song when you hear it.
35 - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars by David Bowie
This album is super weird and has a lot of the musical theater aspects I've mentioned for several albums (and unsurprisingly was also made into a film). I'd argue that this album's value is mostly culturally and historically rather than musically. I can respect this as a piece of modern art, but I have a hard time giving it props on a musical level. There is a stream of consciousness about the whole album that is cool, and Bowie really conjures some cool imagery, but I need to listen to this a few more times to figure out what I'm missing. Based on the outpouring of people reacting to Bowie's death last year and the fact that this is his seminal work I don't expect this opinion to be very popular, but I'm calling them like I hear them.
34 - Music From Big Pink by The Band
The band is not a bad band, but ask yourself: Does this band deserve two albums in the top 100? Two albums in the top 50? This is a little ridiculous. I like to give Canada its props as much as the next guy, but this is a bridge way too far. I mean "The Band" is a glorified backing band that I would argue lacks anything remarkable. You can't be including bands on this list for simply being compentent musicians. This music is not special, leave the participation ribbons out of this.
33 - Ramones by Ramones
This is about as close as I will probably ever come to liking punk rock. And that's not to say that I like this album, but I sure hate it a lot less than I typically hate punk, so the Ramones should be pretty honored, although hating someone the least is not what I'm sure they had in mind. These guys were also basically the genesis of punk music, which means it pretty much went downhill from there culminating in Blink 182. If one day I do ever come around to punk music it will probably be out of appreciation for the Ramones especially that they all went by the last name Ramone which has awesome mob vibes.
32 - Let It Bleed by The Rolling Stones
Is it just me or are these Rolling Stones albums ranked all out of order? This may sound racist, and it likely is, but this album is just too trailer park for me to be honest. "Gimme Shelter" sounds like the tail end of a Cocaine and Heroine binge, because... well... it is. This album has a lot of blues and country influence which is definitely interesting at times but over all I just feel like not having a Ford F-150 or a heroine problem there's not much for me to relate to here.
31 - Bringing It All Back Home by Bob Dylan
Why do a lot of songs on this album sound like a really bad freestyle rap. For an artist that is known predominantly for his message and not his musical gifts, his rhymes are super basic in comparison to just about any freestyle rapper. This is mostly because they are monosyllabic rhymes, but also because they are so predictable in a Dr. Seuss kinda way. When you end a line with sand I know the next one is going to end with hand. Maybe this is just the way folk music works, but this shit ain't lyrically interesting to me, and it damn sure ain't musically interesting to me.
30 - Blue by Joni Mitchell
Blue indeed. I've long enjoyed Joni Mitchell for reasons that I have never quite understood, but perhaps its because she makes being sad sound so good. Her voice is very lively for the melancholy tone of her music. She does things with her voice that can only be described as acrobatic. The syncopations that she produces would be very difficult for even the most experienced Joni fan to emulate. Many people have called this the greatest album ever made by a woman, a distinction that I don't like at all because I believe that somewhere in the statement is an inherent assumption that men are better at music than women (no one would ever say "this is the best album made by a man"). But I also think one could duely challenge that statement. Since this is the final album made by a woman on the list let's discuss? If I had to rank:
- The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
- I Never Loved a Man The Way I Love You - Aretha
- Back to Black - Amy Winehouse
- Tapestry - Carole King
- I put a spell on you - Nina Simone
- Whitney Houston
- Diamond Life - Sade
- Baduism -Erykah Badu
- Corrine Bailey Rae
This list has already made it on this thread and is awesome: https://www.npr.org/2017/07/20/538307314/turning-the-tables-150-greatest-albums-made-by-women-page-15
29 - Led Zeppelin by Led Zeppelin
It just keeps getting better with Zeppelin for me. I keep trying to put my finger on exactly what I like about the band and a few things stand out. Firstly, this bands vocals are very solid, and I mean exactly that: not so good that its distracting from the amazing instrumentation, but better than the overwhelming majority of rock band lyrics. Secondly, there is an attitude to this music, they just sound like bad asses at all time. "Babe I'm gonna leave you" is a perfect example of their badassness, it sounds like a love song at first but then you realize its cold blooded. I would officially classify Zeppelin as Gangsta Rock. Finally, I love the psychedelic and blues influences especially on this album. Its really a cross between those genres and heavy metal which makes heavy metal way more tolerable, even enjoyable.
28 - Who's Next by The Who
This album left a very different impression on me than the last Who album and I think its because they had me at Baba O'Riley. That song has always been a favorite of mine and an amazing way to start off an album. Its also followed up by Bargain, which makes this one of the strongest starting albums of all time. This got me thinking, what are the best first songs on an album?
Cameron's Off-the-Cuff List of Greatest First Album Songs (in no particular order):
- Come Together (definitely the best)
- Heard Em Say
- Crazy In Love
- Don't Stop Til You Get Enough
- So What
- We Will Rock You
- Me and Your Mama
- Baby One More Time
- Bittersweet Symphony
- Rolling in the Deep
- Purple Haze
- What's Going On
- Straight Outta Compton
- Wanna Be Starting Something
- You are the Sunshine of My Life
By the way, the rest of this album rules too.
27 - The Joshua Tree by U2
I'll be honest, this album is actually pretty damn good, but something deep inside of me won't let me like U2, and I think it's a slight rage that takes over somewhere in my mind when I hear Bono's voice. I don't know what Bono did to me, maybe he killed me in a duel in a past life or something but I just can't fuck with the dude. I'm not saying that there's a #metoo story out there about him, but I'm just saying if life were like the movies then one is definitely coming. A quick Google search of "Why do I hate Bono so much?" turned up a pretty comprehensive list on a forum thread:
- He wears tinted sunglasses all the time.
- He's a 50 year old man who calls himself 'Bono'
- He's in U2
- That one story about him flying his hat first class to a gig after he left it at home
- Tax evasion
- Does charity work in a way that strikes people as narcissistic and 'look at me, look how wonderful I am, saving all the children'.
- IT'S BONO - HE'S JUST A CUNT, OK?
26 - Rumours by Fleetwood Mac
I was at a friend's wedding recently and Dreams came on and I started talking to a good friend about how much I loved the song and had enjoyed listening to this album for this project. The reason why I loved it so much was because it was a very refreshing thing to hear on this list after having so much heavy rock. The band's sound is unique and diverse, the female vocals are few and far between on this list and the songs are just generally happy. I'll admit, this does sound like the soundtrack to a Disney film but not a cartoon type movie, like one of those Disney Channel films about teenagers falling in love.
25 - Live at the Apollo, 1962 by James Brown
James Brown was called the "hardest working man in show business" for pretty damn good reason. In just over 30 minutes he lays down a live album so good that "R&B disc jockeys often would play side 1 in its entirety, pausing (usually to insert commercials) only to return to play side 2 in full as well." It's hard to compare live albums with studio albums and I've felt at times that live albums don't really belong on this list, but memorializing the experience of hearing Brown tear threw some of his greatest tracks probably high as hell on cocaine has made it very clear that this rightfully belongs in the Library of Congress.
24 - Innervisions by Stevie Wonder
This is as high as Stevie Wonder goes and that's pretty sad to me. One of the greatest things that has come out of this project for me is a renewed love for Stevie Wonder. Listening to his albums inevitably jogs memories of eight year old Cam singing the shit out of these songs before puberty hit while not knowing any of the lyrics because the internet wasn't really a thing yet. I think about the first time I actually got to see Stevie which was years after my first attempt to see him landed me in the ER, but thats a story for another day. I think of Stevie singing at MJs funeral and fucking us all up dearly. I landed in New York today and just played "Living for the City" as I crossed the bridge and I felt like I was in a movie.
23 - John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band by John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band
This album is garbage. I'm not surprised I've never followed Lennon's solo career much because he is basically just Bob Dylan without the Beatles. A lot of this music is just repetitive and basic and the lyrics almost sound like Scientology level pseudo intellectualism. This album was not well received when it was released, Rolling Stone's critics were one of the only ones to think it was any good and unsurprisingly it's ranked high on a list on which it doesn't belong. Gimme that 39 minutes of my life back.
22 - The Complete Recordings by Robert Johnson
By my count this is the 11th compilation album on this list and its very long with pretty poor recording quality, but I actually believe this is probably the only one that I could accept on this list. Wikipedia says it best: "While Robert Johnson's professional recording career can be measured in months, his musical legacy has survived more than 70 years". The great blues artists of the time were influenced by Robert Johnson and this compilation includes his entire recording history. This has undeniable historically significant and lays musical foundations that would last for decades to come. One unfortunate realization that I had in listening to this is that while this list is pretty significantly skewed towards celebrating white musicians, African American artists account for 8 of the 11 greatest hits albums I've listened to thus far. In my opinion that just shows how white this list would have skewed had they not just started looking for greatest hits albums made by black artists to try and balance it out.
21 - The Great Twenty_Eight by Chuck Berry
Make that 12 compilations, 9 by African Americans. I didn't want to make this list so much about race when I started it, I promise, and I stuck with this list despite its shortcomings because I wanted to explore music that was less familiar to me. However, in the process an unfortunate narrative has emerged of black artists not gaining the same critical acclaim that their arguably less talented white counterparts got. I guess we'll just have to wait and see who the aliens out there starting to receive radio signals from earth think is better Bob Dylan or Stevie Wonder. But on subject of this album: Chuck Berry absolutely rules. It's very clear just how much he influenced rock and roll, at no point more clear than when I realized Come Together sampled one of its best lines from "You Can't Catch Me". Also Chuck Berry's infamous riff has got to be the most signature musical calling card of all time up there with MJs "Hee Hee!" Screech
20 - Thriller by Michael Jackson
Look, I hope you didn't need this list to tell you that this is possibly the best album ever made (although I would argue Off the Wall is MJs best). I also hope you know that there is literally no way there are 19 albums better than this. Beat It, Billie Jean, Wanna Be Starting Something, PYT, Human Nature... I mean the track-list reads like a greatest hits album. It's the second highest selling album of all time and the only album above it is a greatest hits album, so its basically the highest selling album ever so it passes the $$$ test, it definitely passes the ear test. I politely request that Rolling Stone explain their rationale for including this album at 20.
19 - Astral Weeks by Van Morrison
I believe the last Van Morrison album I encountered I said was really good but definitely not better than Off the Wall which was an album or two before. My reasoning stands here. This album is great, and in a lot of ways gives you glimpse into the sixties in a way that few albums do. The musicianship on this album is standout, particularly because he involved a lot of actual jazz musicians. The album is very spontaneous and experimental but not in a contrived Yoko Ono way. The ranking of this album here still seems pretty absurd, but I won't blame Van Morrison for Rolling Stone ranking this too high, I enjoyed it.
18 - Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen
The last Springsteen album was better than this. This album just didn't do anything for me. I would argue this doesn't even belong in the top 100.
17 - Nevermind by Nirvana
This album is pretty good, but a few really good tracks does not an all-time great album make. I could justify this album in the top 50 but never in the top 20. The songwriting on this album is pretty basic, and its driven only by the extremely proficient instrumentation. Apparently, lyrics and singing were basically saved for the very end when making this album and its pretty apparent in songs like "Smells Like Teen Spirit" which features basic lyrics mumbled in a way that makes them barely decipherable.
16 - Blood on the Tracks by Bob Dylan
Quite the opposite of the preceding album, this album features some remarkable lyrics and more singing than I am used to hearing on a Dylan album. It's crazy that this was his 15th studio album. All that considered, putting this album in the top 20 greatest albums is equivalent to giving the Best Picture Oscar to a RomCom. Yeah you can make great songs if you sound like Bob Dylan when you sing, but should we really compare that to "real" singers?
15 - Are You Experienced by The Jimi Hendrix Experience
I listened to this album three times before preceding to the next album. That should tell you something about this album. Everything about this album is amazing: vocals, instruments, lyrics... a total package. This album starts with one of the best Hendrix songs and ends on one of the best finishing lines on an album: "Cuz if my baby don't love me no mo... I know her sister will".
14 - Abbey Road by The Beatles
Ending the Hendrix album on that line and then picking this album up with Come Together really makes it sound like these albums were meant to be played sequentially. I already stated earlier in this list that Come Together is the best song to open an album of all-time and I stand by that (although I amended my previous list to include Purple Haze which I left off). I also believe this happens to be the best Beatle's album, and I Want You (She's so Heavy) is my favorite Beatle's song.
13 - The Velvet Underground & Nico by The Velvet Underground
I'm quite surprised that this late in the list I am still encountering existential questions about the criteria of what makes an album great. I would say that the songs on this album are actually quite good, and the album was definitely ahead of its time, which is why it got no real critical acclaim when it was made. It's a great example of a piece of art that needs time to be appreciated. However, there is one thing that I can't get over: the quality of this recording is fucking AWFUL. This is similar to the watching videos of 90s basketball. As a kid I was like man this shit is awesome, but now that we live in a world in HD I can't tell Jordan from Kukoc on the old footage. Some will make the argument that artists focused on mono recording and all that stuff, but honestly it sounds like they are playing on shitty instruments too. This basically sounds like the world's dopest garage band, which still leaves me with a conundrum about whether this belongs this high on the list. I can only imagine what this would have sounded like if a professional had been involved in producing this.
12 - Kind of Blue by Miles Davis
For most of my life before college there were few things I cared more about than playing jazz trumpet. I distinctly recall beginning to comprehend jazz specifically because of the song So What on this album. When given the opportunity to solo on this song I found for the first time that jazz was not about hitting crazy high notes and doing things that other people can't do. Miles Davis doesn't really do much in that solo that most trumpet players can't do, but its the way that he does it, coupled with the absolute simplicity of the arrangement that conspires to create something genius. I am not alone in considering this the best jazz album of all time, Rolling Stone and I have at least found something we can agree on.
11 - The Sun Sessions by Elvis Presley
This album has pretty big historical significance, I'm aware. It's an early look at what would wind up being on of the most successful music careers of all time. That doesn't mean that Elvis playing solo in a studio acoustic should be given greater importance than the many amazing albums it is ranked ahead of which included much more production quality and performance. This is a compilation album, but I can actually forgive that in this context since these Sun Studios sessions was the birth of his career.
10 - The Beatles ("The White Album") by The Beatles
I'm not gonna lie, before starting this list I would have told you this album was appropriately ranked here, but now... I don't know. Is it a good album? Of course. But I think all in all this album is too long and much of its content I'm quite indifferent too. The band was falling apart at this time and I think that it lacks the togetherness of earlier albums. Also there is an air of pretentiousness that is pretty palpable, most people would probably blame that on Lennon and Yoko Ono. All told I would downgrade this album pretty heavily. It's definitely not better than Abbey Road IMO.
9 - Blonde on Blonde by Bob Dylan
This is one of the most musical albums that Dylan ever made and he actually sounds like he's a singer in many of these songs, which is refreshing. I have a hard time believing there is a Dylan album better than this.
8 - London Calling by The Clash
The last Clash album was surprisingly good to me and this one definitely builds on that. These guys are excellent musicians, and sneaky good singers. The songs lyrics add a lot to the music here as well, as I've noticed a lot of Rock bands just don't take lyricism seriously which makes me like this even more. I'm not saying that I'm all of a sudden a punk rock fan, but I definitely don't hate it anymore.
7 - Exile on Main St. by The Rolling Stones
I was having dinner with a friend recently who was telling me about a book he's reading, Keith Richards Memoir. In it they describe how a lot of their music was made in crazy drug fueled benders so insane that they would take acid to come down. As someone who has DEFINITELY NEVER DONE ACID this sounded insane to me. But then listening to this album I thought, how else could this music be made? There's a certain frenetic and jittery quality to this music that makes it sound like all of the musicians are in different time zones playing together on a video conference. All of that said, this album is pretty defining Rock. It would also not be inaccurate to call this a blues album. Personally, I love Shake your Hips a lot.
6 - What's Going On by Marvin Gaye
Bold claim: What's going on and blonde are basically the same album. Of all the albums that I've listened to on this list this album paints a picture clearer than just about any other. Like Blonde, this album is a true reflection of its time. While Blonde tells a coming of age story that reflects the values of the current generation like openness about the spectrum of human sexuality and the costs of consumerism, What's Going On is the story of the generation that birthed ours, and is the dawn of an awakening on issues such as climate change, warfare and inequality. In many ways, these albums are different chapters of the same book. The parallels are pretty uncanny, as both artists use different characters who are both similar and dissimilar from themselves to tell their stories. I could spend all day dissecting these two albums, but fortunately somebody else has already done that so I'll just say that I think that Marvin Gaye was reincarnated in Frank Ocean.
5 - Rubber Soul by The Beatles
I didn't realize I had been sleeping on this album. The Beatles make you feel like no band had ever sang and harmonized together before them. Songs like You Won't See me are so remarkable simple and corny but just work so well. I know literally anyone can sing oooo la la la ooooo la la la, but there's something about the Beatles. This album marked the introduction of new instruments for the band like the Sitar, and laid the ground-work for a lot of their later work. I think in a lot of ways this is the purest Beatles album as it touches on all of the characteristics that defined the band over the course of their career. It's also worth noting that You Won't See me is the ONLY song on this album over 3 minutes long which sorta defines this album, a series of very good songs that are only as long as they need to be.
4 - Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan
It's very difficult to pick the better Dylan album out of this and Blonde on Blonde. This album is very classic in its construction and execution, and it has some really amazing high points like "Ballad of a Thin Man", probably my favorite Dylan song. It reminds me of Tarantino movie. I think being significantly shorter than Blonde on Blonde it left me with fewer memorable moments.
3 - Revolver by The Beatles
Taxman fucking slaps. What a way to start off an album. This album is so psychedelic and diverse in its music, with rare low points. This album must be appreciated on a very good set of speakers or headphones. The string octet, the harmonies all add up to what feels like it must be longer than the 35 minutes it actually clocks in at. There definitely not a bad song on this album. This album is basically an advertisement for LSD, and a good one. Also "Got To Get You Into My Life" is one of my favorite Beatles songs, and is in the running for one of the best Beatles covers by Earth Wind and Fire.
2 - Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys have such amazingly complex harmonies, similar to Phish, but I have no interest in making that comparison. I think it says something that Acid was pretty influential on the Top 3 albums on this list. The relationship between music and LSD is storied and well documented, but there are cleary some things that came out of psychedelic rock that rarely appears in other genres save Jazz (and this album is jazz at points). Pet Sounds just brings together some of the coolest --for lack of a better word-- sounds. The two instrumental tracks on this album are both really amazing and really ties the album together in a magnificent way. "God Only Knows" is such a triumphant song that was endowed an even more special place in my heart by being on the Love Actually Soundtrack. I think that this is the best album on this list and determining which album is better between this and Blonde would require intensive study and could potentially take the rest of my life. I think comparing the Mono and the Stereo versions on this album is a very fun undertaking.
1 - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles
Ok, everyone knows this album rules. "With a Little Help From My Friends" is easily one of the best Beatles songs. It also has one of the greatest covers of all time thanks to the man Joe Cocker. Obviously, "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" weird, cool, love it. I personally love "She's Leaving Home" a song that I learned to waltz to. I've heard this album many times, and it never gets tired. I think that familiarity can work against an album sometimes, not here. This album like Revolver is just jam packed with great songs with no particular weak points. It's an incredibly close call, but I think I prefer Revolver by a hair.
I think that at the end of the day there are tiers of album excellence:
These albums are nearly perfect compositions for their societal impact, musical mastery and creativity.
- Pet Sounds
- Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
- What's Going On
- Rubber Soul
- Kind of Blue
- Whitney Houston
- Are You Experienced
- Blonde on Blonde
- Off the Wall
- Dark Side of the Moon
- The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
- Hotel California
- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
- Speakerboxx/Love Below
- Purple Rain
- A Love Supreme
- Awaken My Love
- Still Bill
- Kid A
- The Wall
- Zepplin 4
- Random Access Memories
- Time Out
- A Charlie Brown Christmas