I know. The momentum was broken. I get it! I wrote an entry followed by several days off. What can I say? Family duties called. Babysitting here, a family wedding there, a weekend in Southern Indiana with the extended family, a broken down body right now. That’s how it goes with chronic pain and life. You attempt to live a regular life, though in a greatly compromised manner (i.e. no drinking so you don’t have drug interactions; go to bed while everyone else is partying, etc.). Then you wake up on Monday morning, feeling as if you ran a marathon, played basketball all day the following day, then allowed a baseball team to beat you relentlessly with their bats. It’s an awesome life. I may appear to look somewhat normal, but it’s much worse than I try to let on.
So, enough of the sniveling. Let’s talk about one of the things outside of my family that brings me joy and that’s music. In this list, I purposely left off any and all albums from the current decade mainly because I now prefer to let an album simmer for a couple of years before I begin to honestly rank it. You see, some albums are designed to sound great in the context of the now, while others are constructed with legs. When you are younger, you can immediately and instinctively know which category to place an album. Nowadays, what sounded good one day, now sounds crappy the next. It’s because of that reason, I was not ready to include albums from the 2020s in on my list, even though I am nearly ready to crown Olivia Rodrigo’s Sour album for a fairly high ranking in this list. I seem to keep popping the album on my turntable. What can I say? I dig great pop music.
An interesting side note is that I actually own most of these albums on vinyl. At one time or another, I probably had many of the unowned albums on CD but decided to get rid of them during my massive purge. Now, I am slowly adding vinyl versions of these albums to my collection, though the number of those I don’t own is less than 175 of the titles on this list.
With that said, let’s delve into the next fifty albums on my list.
450. Stevie Wonder – Hotter Than July (1980). Back in the day, Stevie was the man, just on the downside of his creative peak. This album was praised in the day and kind of forgotten now.
449. The Smiths – Meat Is Murder (1985). The Smiths were the darlings of college radio back in the mid-80s. The US release of this one includes their seminal “How Soon Is Now.”
448. Earth, Wind & Fire – That’s the Way of the World (1975). Some bands become despite a wealth of talent, while others have so much ability oozing out of their bodies that it’s absolutely ridiculous. Earth, Wind & Fire is the latter, and they are hot on this album.
447. Genesis – Genesis (1983). Many people prefer the early prog-rock version of Genesis with Peter Gabriel in the lead singer spot, and there is a strong case to be made for that lineup. But, many of us lean toward the tightness and pop influence of the songs of the Phil Collins-led trio version, with this self-titled album arguably being their best.
446. Faith No More – The Real Thing (1989). I will yell this from the mountain tops, “Why wasn’t FNM the biggest band in the world?” They mixed together EVERYTHING that was great about music in the late-80s, alternative, metal, rap, into a compelling and unique sound.
445. Squeeze – East Side Story (1981). Behind Elvis Costello, the duo of Chris Difford and Glenn Tillbrook were the greatest songwriters of the new wave era. This album stands along The Beatles’ late-60s output, Elvis’ first five albums, and Paul Weller’s career as the best examples of excellent British pop.
444. Iggy & the Stooges – Raw Power (1973). This is a great glammed up version of the sound punk. You just cannot oversell how important The Stooges were to modern music.
443. Roxy Music – Stranded (1973). The Glam gods of the UK released a bunch of classics all by 1975, and Stranded was one of the first of their more outstanding releases.
442. Donna Summer – Bad Girls (1979). Disco was all about the 12″ dance single, but Donna Summer, the Queen of Disco, made one of the genres more enduring and well-paced artistic statements of the era.
441. R.E.M. – Green (1988). When college rock darlings R.E.M. abandoned the indie world and signed with Warner Brothers, fans all over worried about the band selling out. No way! The boys from Athens, Georgia, fought to keep their artistic integrity and vision intact even as they moved into U2-sized popularity.
440. David Bowie – “Heroes” (1977). So, by the mid-70s, Bowie was a big critical star without much of the financial footing but the trappings of a cocaine addiction. So, he retreated to Berlin with former Roxy Music “tape manipulator” Brian Eno to take in the influences of Kraftwerk to create his long-standing classic trilogy of which this album is the best.
439. The Clash – The Clash (1977). When the dust finally settled on the London punk scene of 1977 and 1978, The Jam ended up the big stars in the UK, the Pistols were the best singles band and The Clash were on their way to becoming a new version of The Who. The Clash remains the best album of the punk era – UK division.
438. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts – I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll (1981). For second quarter of college in 1981-82, this album was ubiquitous. It caught the zeitgeist of the new MTV generation.
437. Hüsker Dü – Zen Arcade (1984). Arguably the greatest hardcore band of the 80s, these Minnesotans brought punk together with a song cycle about how much teen life in the Reagan-era suck in the form of a rock opera of sorts. Green Day couldn’t have made their rock operas without this album, and Nirvana would have not had a HUGE influence on their wound with this band.
436. Taylor Dayne – Can’t Fight Fate (1989). Dayne popped onto the scene as this tiny woman with hair as big as her and a voice of a powerhouse. Her sophomore album represents the moment when the songs, the voice and the look all came together. Unfortunately, Ms. Dayne seems to have played something of a John the Baptist to Mariah Carey’s JC. Personally, I prefer Dayne’s voice since she has a Tina Turner vibe.
435. Def Leppard – Hysteria (1987). This album was highly anticipated by the public, and despite the circumstances, Def Leppard delivered. While their 80s albums are all great works, they may have been more of a studio band than a live one.
434. Foo Fighters – The Colour and the Shape (1997). The Foos did not have a sophomore slump as this great album proves. How could it fail when it contained “My Hero.”
433. Crowded House – Crowded House (1986). When 1986 rolled around, MTV was huge, new wave was on passé and Beatles-influenced pop rock songs were not in vogue. But, when those songs are as good as what Crowded House created, then all bets are off. I feel like the success that Crowded House experienced got Squeeze off their collective asses and back into the game.
432. The Pretenders – Learning to Crawl (1984). When the mid-80s hit, many artists were moving into the 30s and 40s and having families. Their hedonistic days were waning. Chrissie Hynde rose to the occasion to bring a timeless voice to the concerns of growing up as a rock star on this album.
431. Stevie Nicks – Bella Donna (1981). Stevie Nicks was the breakout solo star of supergroup Fleetwood Mac. Plus, she showed the world how to have it all ways by maintaining a stellar solo career while remaining a contributing member of one of the greatest bands of all time.
430. Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Rust Never Sleeps (1979). Neil Young has a habit of going into auto-drive for a few albums, then, out of the blue, dropping a classic album that reminds people the greatness of his muse. Rust Never Sleeps was such an example and became my entry drug into the Neil catalog.
429. Fugees – The Score (1996). Rap supergroup Fugees furthered the language of hip hop to include the sounds of Seventies soul. The three members of the group all had hit solo albums in the aftermath of this album, none as big as the multi-talented Lauryn Hill.
428. Prince – Prince (1979). No matter how hard Warner Brothers tried, Prince was NOT going to be pigeonholed as a black artist. And, this sophomore disc shows the man beginning to spread his wings as an artist. “I Wanna Be Your Lover” is excellent on the dancefloor to this day, but “Why You Want to Treat Me So Bad” is the song that shows the breadth of his musical ambitions.
427. Billy Joel – The Stranger (1977). Joel is the quintessential tale of the struggling artist who finally hits it big then freaks out by the ramifications of stardom. This album is when the man became the star. I still love to listen to the tales on this album because the characters in his songs are so vivid.
426. AC/DC – Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (1976). What can you say about a band who was so big at the time that they could re-release an album from earlier in their career that never sold much then it becomes one of the biggest-selling albums of 1981 in the States? It was a classic before its time, that’s what you say.
425. Santana – Supernatural (1999). Sometimes an album is released at the perfect time to become a cultural phenomenon. But, it rarely happens to a deserving artist making something of a dramatic comeback. Santana followed Tina Turner with this album.
424. The Flamin’ Groovies – Shake Some Action (1976). In 1983, a friend came up to me holding a cassette while telling me this was the greatest rock album of all time. I took a look at the artist and did not recognize The Flamin’ Groovies. But, I respected this guy’s opinion, so I popped the cassette in my tape player and was blown away. How could this band have escaped me? It showed me that both Creem and Rolling Stone overlooked many bands.
423. Foo Fighters – Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace (2007). This the album in which all of the Foos’ visions came together into one terrific statement.
422. Cheap Trick – In Color (1977). This is the album that started my Cheap Trick obsession. No wonder. It’s brilliant! The songs all truly come alive in concerts.
421. Paramore – Paramore (2013). Man, I truly love power pop! Especially when the band has a voice like Hayley Williams’.
420. Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand (2004). One day back when my older son was in college, I was complaining by the lack of Eighties-influences on artists. That’s when he came home with a bundle of burnt CDs by the likes of Jimmy Eat World, The Killers, Interpol, Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand. That single gesture prolonged my cutting edge musical tastes.
419. The Notorious B.I.G. – Life After Death (1997). I’m not sure if Biggie is the GOAT rapper, I do know he made two fantastic albums during his tragically short life. All I need to say is “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems.”
418. Steely Dan – Aja (1977). Let’s be honest. Steely Dan could have only happened in the Seventies. And, thank God they did! This album is just pure West Coast studio perfection. It was on my turntable when I was 14 and continues to find its way back to it now that I’m 59.
417. Chic – Chic (1977). C’mon people! Chic was WAY much more than disco. This was a band who influenced so much of the Eighties its no longer funny. Their first three bands are flat-out classics.
416. Cheap Trick – Dream Police (1979). This album was in the can and ready to go when At Budokan began life as the biggest selling import of all time on its way to becoming one of the greatest live albums of all time and a cultural phenomenon at the time. When the band finally unleashed this monster on the public, Cheap Trick cemented themselves as one of the greatest American bands of all time.
415. Cheap Trick – Heaven Tonight (1978). In 1978, Cheap Trick’s brand of The Beatles-meets-The Who was fresh and welcomed by punks, new wavers and rockers alike. So, why did this album take so long to take off? Anything that has the song “Surrender” should go platinum immediately.
414. Foreigner – 4 (1981). Many of the big AOR bands felt punk and new wave artists breathing down their necks. So, Foreigner, in response, tentatively made an album heavily influenced by these new sounds in 1979 called Head Games. The band quickly learned from their mistakes on that album, streamlined the band’s lineup, tightened their songs and played to their strengths of Lou Gramm’s vocals and Mick Jones’ guitars and let loose a monster album on us. 4 was the album of the last six months of the year.
413. Duran Duran – Rio (1981). It seemed as though everything was happening at once. Foreigner, Queen and Billy Squier were all taking AOR into the future, while new wavers like Duran Duran began flexing their mighty muscles by combining the fury of the Sex Pistols with the sophisticated funk of Chic and the cool of Roxy Music to position themselves as The Beatles of the Eighties. Rio is their classic album for the ages.
412. The Psychedelic Furs – Forever Now (1982). What is about Todd Rundgren that helps bands find their sounds and pushes them to greater heights? He did it with Grand Funk, Patty Smith, Shaun Cassidy and The Tubes before and XTC and The Pursuit of Happiness afterwards. Thank God he helped The Furs because they never sounded tighter.
411. Bobby Brown – Don’t Be Cruel (1988). Just when you began to wonder what the kids would do to soul and dance music once rap influenced, Bobby Brown gave us the answer on this LP. The former member of New Edition came out with a sound called New Jack Swing that dominated the charts into the Nineties. And this was Ground Zero for it all.
410. AC/DC – Highway to Hell (1979). This is when AC/DC ascended to the throne as Kings of Hard Rock. Arguably, the band has maintained their rule unabated to this day. Unfortunately, this album was first lead singer Bon Scott’s last as he died early in 1980.
409. R.E.M. – New Adventures in Hi-Fi (1996). Here is the biggest alternative band ever coming to their first crossroads as this album marks drummer Bill Berry’s swansong with the band. Even though this album was predominantly recorded during soundchecks on their Monster Tour, it still shows a band at the sonic top of their game. But, the cracks were beginning to show.
408. Echo & the Bunnymen – Ocean Rain (1984). Don’t let Eighties radio weekends fool you. Not every new wave song was about shiny, happy people and situations. Some of the best songs, were dark odes to the underbelly of love and society. And, Echo were the best at it. Plus, they were the perfect gateway, along with The Cure, into the goth world of Bauhaus and others.
407. Drive-By Truckers – Southern Rock Opera (2001). How do southern musicians ever square there region of the country in which they grew up with the perceptions of educated Americans. This album deals with the whole question in a fresh unique lyrics set to some fine Southern-fried rock right out of the Lynyrd Skynyrd playbook.
406. Adele – 19 (2008). After Amy Winehouse’s out-of-left-field success, record companies were scouring the world in search of the next Amy. Out of the influx of signings of big voices with unique sounds came a young lady with a beautiful face and a more beautiful voice named Adele. Little did we anticipate that this woman would quickly blossom as a vocalist and songwriter. This is her above-average debut.
405. Harry Styles – Fine Line (2019). Who knew that one of those guys in One Direction was a Seventies singer-songwriter at heart? Harry has become the breakaway solo star from the boy band based upon his songwriting skills that blend Seventies west coast rock with current sounds. Is Harry the next Justin Timberlake? Time will tell.
404. Paul Weller – Sonik Kicks (2012). I cannot emphasize enough that you should listen to Paul Weller. Just go chronologically. By the time you reach this classic Weller LP, you will be hooked. This is Weller just busting his guitar strings with his trademark passion and energy still intact as he enters his 50s.
403. The Bangles – Different Light (1986). Yes, the band sounds polished with compared with their debut All Over the Place. But, the songs are tighter, the harmonies are still there and the production is shinier. Plus, when Prince gives you a song like “Maniac Monday,” all you have to do is to get out of the way of yourself and create. And, that’s what The Bangles did.
402. Terrence Trent D’Arby – Introducing the Hardline According to Terrence Trent D’Arby (1987). Back in the late-Eighties, music was all shined up with digital recordings and synthesizers everywhere. Then, D’Arby came along as if he were Otis Redding and reminded us about the freshness of Seventies southern-fried soul.
401. Metallica – …And Justice for All (1988). The metal band of the Eighties made one of the most overblown thrash albums ever that has some of the craziest guitars ever recorded. This album is just big in all the right ways and for all the right reasons.