Hi there blog fans! Keller is back and ready to rattle on about rock music in a narcissistic attempt to be creative and informative, all the while knowing full and well that I am spouting off the same stuff that could be found on 30 other rock blogs. My apologies to all of my new found brethren as I create a two-part blog entry.
As you should be able to ascertain from the title of my blog, I collect music. And, I love most kinds of music. Unfortunately, I have never been a fan of country music, except for the “real” stuff created by Hank Williams Sr., Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, Buck Owens and His Buckaroos, Merle Haggard, to name just a few. Like Tom Petty said in his recent documentary, entitled Running Down a Dream, I feel as though today’s country music is simply bad 80s music recorded with a fiddle. Oh well, go back to the early days for that genre’s truly great music.
Today, I have chosen 25 albums that all music lovers should have in their collection, be it on vinyl, CD, mp3 or whatever. Simply put, you gotta have these albums, and may the world forever consider you cool. Then, tomorrow, I will give you my list of 25 albums of music that is off the beaten path and will forever enrich your listening experience. So, let the countdown begin of my 25 obvious choices of albums that should be in everyone’s collection. These are listed in chronological order of release date.
- Elvis Presley – Elvis Presley (1957). This is Chapter 1 for the beginning of rock & roll, which eventually evolved into the rock music that we have enjoyed. Elvis’ manager, Col. Tom Parker said if he find a white man who sang like a black man, he’d make millions of dollars. I sure hope the self-anointed Colonel thanked Elvis every day of his life. Somehow, I doubt if he did.
- Chuck Berry – The Great Twenty-Eight (1984). Sure, this compilation was not put together until my college days, but all of these classic songs were written in the span of two years. And, these songs represent the building blocks of all rock music to the end of time. This is significant if only for his influence over The Rolling Stones.
- Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited (1965). Oh no! Bob went electric on HALF of this record! The sacrilege! It had to happen for rock to become more literary in its lyrics. That snare blast at the beginning of “Like a Rolling Stone” still signifies a change has happened.
- The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967). The Fab Four, with the helping hand of their producer Sir George Martin, expanded the musical vocabulary of rock that made it as though everything was possible in this newer genre of music.
- The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced? (1967). While the Beatles were changing the musical palette of pop music, Hendrix was turning over the parameters of the blues while making his music. Nearly 50 years later, the music world is STILL trying to catch up to Hendrix.
- The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967). So what if the flower power of the previous two albums didn’t make a dent at Andy Warhol’s Factory, because the place had their own house band who was inverting the hippie music being made, stripped the soul from their music and used dark poetic lyrics to describe the urban decay of NYC at the time. Very few originally bought this album, but it has been said that everyone who did started their own similar-sounding bands.
- Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath (1970). Combine ominous, heavy music with B-movie horror scenarios and you now have a new genre: heavy metal.
- Sly & the Family Stone – Greatest Hits (1970). Sure, we are missing their great post-Woodstock hits, but this is the summary of late-sixties funk distilled down to one disc. A guaranteed dance party platter if there ever was one!
- The Rolling Stones – Hot Rocks (1971). Yes, the Stones catalog is full of classic albums. But, this one was the pre-CD motherlode of hit songs. At the time of its release, so few hits were missing from the album that the follow-up album, More Hot Rocks seemed like a money grab.
- Led Zeppelin – IV (1971). Okay, the album truly has no title, but who cares. This album showcases everything that was great about Zeppelin and their version of American blues mix with English folk. This album is significant if it only had “Stairway to Heaven”, let alone everything else.
- The Who – Who’s Next (1971). Look! Sabbath in ’70, followed by Zeppelin and The Who in ’71, and you have the total blueprint for both metal AND hard rock, and even punk and grunge. Singer Roger Daltry showed the rock world how important a scream could be.
- Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon (1972). None of their subsequent albums could have happened without this behemoth. Now, the blues have been bent in a more artistic mode. Then, you throw in the special effects and eerie vocals, and you have another rock masterpiece that stayed on the American album chart for nearly 20 straight years.
- Big Star – #1 Record (1972). So, this album was made in the early ’70s but wasn’t discovered until the late ’70s. Then, much like The Velvet Underground did a decade earlier, power pop bands began to pop up everywhere. But, not only power pop bands, but bands who were combining punk with Big Star lyrics to create the alternative nation of the second half of the ’80s and most of the ’90s.
- Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run (1975). This album truly represents ground zero of The Boss phenomenon that finally exploded in the mid-Eighties. This might be Springsteen’s perfect statement.
- Queen – A Night at the Opera (1975). After this album, truly anything was possible. Want some metal? Check! Want some vaudevillian music? Check! Want some neo-folk? Check! Okay, what about a suite with a piano-based singer-songwriter beginning, a chorale section, then a mini-opera in the middle, followed by a heavy metal catharsis? Yep, they even have that too! It seems as though everything, including the kitchen sink (though I still have yet to discover it in the mix) could be played on a rock album after this one. Punk had to happen after this album came out.
- Ramones – Ramones (1976). Like I said, punk HAD to happen, and here it is! Ramones burst on the scene on Sire Records with their stripped down sound. Small guitar solos, if they existed at all, in songs that lasted two minutes, reminding everyone of the good old days of girl groups, pop bands and bubble gum music. This is the sound of rock finally being flipped on its head.
- Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols (1977). So, after the U.K. heard the Ramones, disaffected British youth immediately stared punk bands. There version of punk was more politically motivated due to the sad state of affairs across the pond. The Pistols were provocative and vulgar and everything that a “dangerous” band should be, thus following Elvis, The Stones & Alice Cooper. All publicity was good publicity to this band.
- The Clash – London Calling (1979). Just as punk was on life support, The Clash created an album that showed their love of American music, repackaged it, and sold it back to the Americans much like The Beatles and Stones had done before. To me, this is the greatest album of all time!
- Michael Jackson – Thriller (1982). Jackson learned everything he could during the last few days of Detroit Motown, then updated the sound with Quincy Jones and took over the world with dance songs that would not alienate white America, all the while redefining the sound of Sly’s funk sound by asking Eddie Van Halen to lay down one of his patented metal guitar solos for a rock/dance song that Jackson made immortal.
- Prince & the Revolution – Purple Rain (1984). Rock’s most restless genius, was able to amalgamate all rock, soul and funk sounds into what was known as the Minneapolis Sound. And, this five-foot-something dynamo was a cross between Jackson’s dancing, Hendrix’ guitar work, Sly’s funk for the rainbow coalition and a musical genius ala Mozart. Prince went on to greater musical heights later, but nothing was the across-the-board phenomenon that Purple Rain turned out to be as a movie, a soundtrack, a tour and a bevy of singles. Prince struck us like a bolt of lightening at the time and NOBODY has come close since. This was only one Prince! Sorry, Michael!
- Run-DMC – Raising Hell (1986). Mothers and fathers of suburbia! Lock up your children! Heavy metal music may be okay after all! Now, the ghetto is infiltrating the suburbs through these “clowns” who are doing this new thing called “rap”. WTF?!?! This music must be stopped. This happened to sound like the ’50s all over again.
- N.W.A – Straight Outta Compton (1989). Heaven forbid that white kids start hearing what the black teens are going through in the ghetto! White adults felt they had to save all white kids from the scourage of rap and even heavy metal musics. This album told the truth as we learned during the Rodney King and OJ Simpson fiascos.
- Nirvana – Nevermind (1991). Oh no! This grunge, or should I say punk, band knocked Michael Jackson out of the #1 position on the album chart. And, for a short moment, all was right in the world as Nirvana was bringing punk, alternative noise (yes, the Pixies) and a love of melody, either the Beatles or Cheap Trick. It’s such a shame that band leader Kurt Cobain could not handle the demons that haunted him, because I am certain we are missing out on some beautiful music.
- R.E.M. – Automatic for the People (1992). Initially, the college rock poster kids were going to create a “balls-to-the wall” rock album. But, what we got was a subtle folksy treatise on the perils of staring down the aging process and facing one’s mortality. The album is not only a tour de force but a tender and beautiful look as the older Gen X-ers were all beginning to move into adulthood.
- Dr. Dre – The Chronic (1992). While REM was facing adulthood, so was Dre, but only how it happened in the ‘hood. We heard about all of the tensions that were building between the LAPD and those in Compton. This album, along with the NWA album on this list should be used to teach future students about race relations in the ’90s and compare and contrast those artists’ observations to what is occurring today and being described in the music of Kendrick Lamar and D’Angelo. These four albums can paint us a much better picture than a documentary created by some white guy.
So, ladies and gentlemen, those are my 25 must-own albums of the more obvious selections. Tomorrow, I will give you my 25 that are well off the beaten path. So, until then, keep cranking the music!