Here is something new for my writing madness. This week, my wife and I are watching Grandchild 4 for a transition week before she begins her daycare life. Under the circumstances, I am attempting to write this while she sits in a little vibrating chair. Still, I don’t think this situation will last very long.
Of course, I was correct. Apparently, the little munchkin needed to be rocked to see for her morning nap. Maybe her Pop Pop needs one as well? Not really, so I will press on with this entry.
And, then this entry was delayed for the rest of the week because one of my long time friends scored some tickets for Jackson Browne in the middle of the week. We followed that terrific concert with an unbelievable Billy Joel show in the Notre Dame Stadium up in South Bend, Indiana. Even though we were an American football field away from the stage and near the top row in the stadium, my wife, two of her college friends and I all really thought Joel and his band were outstanding. Originally, we were all going to see Billy Joel at Notre Dame back in June of 2020, but the pandemic delayed the concert for three years before we got it in. And, it was worth the wait!
Lately, I have been wondering why, when I was in middle school, did I ever transition from collecting baseball and basketball cards (many of which I still own), to collecting albums? Probably the foremost reason is that I really did not set out to create a collection. Innocuously, I started by buying an 8-track tape here, an album there, here a 7-inch, there a cassette, here an album, there an album, until I began to gather three things from an album purchase.
The first thing I got from albums was the most obvious: the music. The music, and especially the lyrics, helped me survive an especially awkward time in my life. Not only were my hormones were beginning to blast full tilt through my veins and clouded my brain until it only seemed to be receiving signals from one place, the nether region in my pants. The music spoke to the hormone-rave that was in extreme mode, while the lyrics attempted to make sense of these changes.
The second part was the fact that each album had a cover whose artwork made the album collectable, much like a sports trading card. Now, you were able to teach yourself a little modern art appreciation class every so often as you accumulated albums.
Next, I discovered this thing that resided inside most album covers, and even at times ON the cover itself, a wealth of information collectively known as the liner notes. This information included song lyrics and songwriter information, release date, musician list with their instruments, some possible historical facts about the artist AND possibly an essay written by a rock journalist or publicist detailing the creative process and lyrical meanings of the album in my hands.
So far, I had some music, an art collectable and a brief batch of album information usually found in a fanzine. But, the thing that cemented the album in my life is how the whole package helped me deal with what was to me the completely out of leftfield separation and eventual divorce of my parents. If I did not have access to these albums, I probably would have needed much more psychotherapy. These albums became a way to help me overcome the shock and depression I felt about that shakeup in my family. Along with my participation in sports, rock music helped survive that crazy moment in my life. I will never to fully thank the artists who helped me survive over the years, except by maintaining my collection while living long enough to describe the love I have for their music in this blog.
So, without any further adieu, let’s dive further into my countdown of my 500 favorite albums. Peace!
400. Raphael Saadiq – Stone Rollin’ (2011). Saadiq got his big break by playing in Prince’s band on the Purple One’s 1986 European Tour, followed by a stint in 90s New Jack Swingers Tony! Toni! Tone! On this solo set, Saadiq masters all of influences and combines on this album that shows its influences as well as feeling both timeless and of its time.
399. M.I.A. – Kala (2007). Sri Lanka’s biggest musical export, M.I.A.’s career peaked on her terrific sophomore album that made her sound as street as any American ghetto resident. Plus, anytime you combine a Clash sample with cash register and gunshot sound effects, you’ve piqued my interest.
398. U2 – Rattle and Hum (1988). It seemed to me that U2 were on an every other album is a classic run in the 80s. The terrific Boy was followed by the sluggish October. Then we got the stellar War followed by the push the boundaries The Unforgettable Fire. So, how did the boys follow up their first classic album, The Joshua Tree? With the sprawling and somewhat pretentious Rattle and Rum experience. Still, there are enough winners on the album for it to remain on my chart for 30+ years.
397. The Jam – All Mods Con (1978). Over the course of The Jam’s first two albums, the band was attempting to amalgamate all of their influences (The Who, The Kinks, Motown, 70s soul and punk rock) into one locked in sound. This is the album on which Paul Weller and the boys did just that, inadvertently created the blueprint for The Smiths, Stone Roses and the Britpop movement of the Nineties.
396. Kings of Leon – Only by the Night (2008). When this band debuted during my older son’s high school years, he and I both thought Kings of Leon would become a pretty solid rock band. Well, in reality, it took the boys another couple of albums before they hit paydirt on this one. With singles like “Sex on Fire” and “Use Somebody,” Only by the Night became a big seller. Unfortunately, the boys really couldn’t write a batch of songs as strong as those found on this LP.
395. The Replacements – Don’t Tell a Soul (1989). When 1989 rolled around, everyone who listened to college rock radio at the time were waiting patiently for The Replacements to get their drinking under control and produce a clean-sounding brand of their Stones-meets- Ramones-via-Springsteen sound to become the world’ biggest band. Fortunately, for us, the band delivered the album wanted by fans, packed with loads of great songs. Sadly, the public decided they’d rather pluck down their hard earned money on a third-rate hair metal band’s album or concert. The Replacements remain in college rock circles as something on the level of The Kinks during their British Invasion heyday.
394. The Style Council – Internationalists (1985). “You don’t have to take this crap!” just may be the greatest opening line of any rock song of the Eighties (“Walls Come Tumbling Down”). And, yet, it was written by the voice of UK Generation X Paul Weller and formed by his band The Style Council. This is Weller at his fiercest in his lyrics while sticking to the Europop-influence modern rock/jazz/Motown/soul mix that made the band more popular back in Europe and reaching cult status here in the states.
393. R.E.M. – Fables of the Reconstruction (1985). On the band’s third album, the boys were tired from five straight years of touring, recording alternating back and forth between the two choices to aide their career. Therefore, the decision to record this album in England, caused the band to become depressed and collectively wrote dark music with dark lyrics to reflect the band’s darkness concerning the recording circumstances. Despite the darkness, this album has a few bright tunes and a consistency that only will grow stronger of the next decade.
392. Billy Joel – An Innocent Man (1983). This one’s Joel’s biggest selling LP, while containing the most hit songs on an album in his illustrious career. It’s as if Billy captured the zeitgeist of the moment when pop music was equally influenced by the sophisticated pop of early Beatles and Motown on An Innocent Man. This album is best known for the huge hit “Uptown Girl,” but don’t overlook the excellent “I Go to Extremes.”
391. Talking Heads – The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads (1982). Forget the excellent live soundtrack recording of the band’s fantastic concert film Stop Making Sense (1984). That’s because 1982’s double-LP The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads is the band’s finest live document as it song list takes the listener chronologically through the band’s live performances during their career.
390. Hootie & the Blowfish – Cracked Rearview Mirror (1994). For the years 1994 and 1995, Hootie was the biggest band on MTV and in the States. They were riding a huge crest of a sound that is part R.E.M., part Wallflowers and part Gin Blossoms to create a tasty jangly guitar sound which made an Americana sound more palatable than most bands of the era.
389. Devo – Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo (1978). What a perfect album to satirize everything about Western culture that continues to resonate, perhaps even more so now. Devo was so far ahead of their competitors that subsequent artists are trying to catch up to these Akron, Ohio visionaries. Side one remains one of the greatest sides of all time.
388. Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures (1979). Release during a year stuffed with great albums, Joy Division debuted a sound that had a long-lasting influence to this very day, post punk. Tragically, lead singer Ian Curtis would commit suicide on the eve of the band’s first American tour and the release of their sophomore album in 1980. The remaining formed New Order.
387. The Clash – Combat Rock (1982). By 1982, The Clash were ready to officially become rock royalty. Unfortunately, co-leaders Joe Strummer and Mick Jones had vastly different music visions for the seminal band. Jones was ready to have the band dive headfirst into hip hop music, while Strummer, being slightly more of a rocker, wanted the band to get back to its roots in punk. And drummer extraordinaire Topper Headon was losing his battle with heroin at the time, so the band enlisted their competent but less broadly talented original drummer Terry Chimes (or Tory Crimes). So, essentially, The Clash were dead we they were out on tour the summer of 1982 and 1983.
386. Prince – Controversy (1981). In retrospect, Controversy appears to be a dress rehearsal for his second masterpiece, which would be released in 1982 and known as 1999. 1981 will be the last year in which Prince will be anonymous.
385. The J. Geils Band – Love Stinks (1980). Can you believe that it took the Geils Band the better part of a decade to finally match their commercial popularity to their critical acclaim. Songs from this album just seemed to have been played everywhere all of the time.
384. Fountains of Wayne – Utopia Parkway (1999). Long before “Stacey’s Mom” dominated the airways, Fountains of Wayne were critical darlings of the fourth wave of power pop music. FoW are the finest power poppers of the late Twentieth Century.
383. Metallica – Master of Puppets (1986). In all honesty, I am not much of a metal fan. However, when it comes to Metallica, you simply have to admire the members’ individual musical and songwriting talents. Metallica is my favorite metal band of any era.
382. Midnight Oil – Diesel and Dust (1988). The Eighties were a time for bands with grand visions, big lyrics about societal issues and rock anthem music. And few put it all together like Aussies Midnight Oil. These guys were speaking about the environment and anti-capitalist views set to some of the more muscular non-metal rock music of the time. Many were expecting this album to explode like U2’s The Joshua Tree, but, unfortunately, that wasn’t in the cards.
381. Bee Gees – Main Course (1975). The Brothers Gibb got the a new lease on their career with this album as they embraced the dance music (disco) and other Miami urban sounds. This was one of the more miraculous comebacks before Tina Turner announced that her retirement was over.
380. Cheap Trick – Cheap Trick (1977). There were actually some excellent albums released in 1977, Cheap Trick’s self-titled debut. This album is so eclectic that you can hear guitar parts that influence grunge here, new wave there, punk, hair metal and power pop, sometimes within the same cut.
379. Funkadelic – One Nation Under a Groove (1978). Back in 1978, when I competed in a national track meet out in Colorado, the disco that was set up each night played this album’s title song. Nowadays, kids will probably recognize various popular songs with this one being sampled.
378. Janet Jackson – Control (1986). By 1986, Janet Jackson was ready to come out of the long shadows of her brothers, the members and former members of the Jackson 5/The Jacksons, including her brother Michael. Instead of following her father’s commands as her manager, she fired him, got a new manager who put her in touch with two of music hottest producers former members of The Time, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. The collaboration between Janet and Jam & Lewis went on to become very creative and lucrative. This album was the trio’s opening salvo.
377. The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead (1986). England’s biggest alternative jangle band released arguably their best albumin 1986 that became both a creative and commercial peak.
376. Daft Punk – Home Work (1997). Electronic dance music was beginning to exert its muscles, enter a French duo who dressed as two rockin’ robots. What made Daft Punk’s sound so unique was their commitment to the time constraints of pop singles.
375. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver (2007). Just when I was truly missing new music from Talking Heads, along comes this New York conglomeration of musicians who could mix EDM with polyrhythms from the continent of Africa with rock and pop traditions. For a brief moment, LCD helped me get a Heads fix.
374. Adele – 25 (2015). A decade or so ago, Adele dropped her sophomore album, the now classic 21. Then, she went on a brief hiatus, only to reappear in 2015 with her second biggest album of all time. Adele just may be the Barbra Streisand and Whitney Houston of her generation.
373. Jenny Lewis – On the Line (2019). The former child actress, Jenny Lewis dove head first into the music industry a couple of decades ago. Ms. Lewis found a niche in the Americana sound until she began to write in a female Tom Petty realm which only endeared her music more to my ears.
372. Halsey – Hopeless Fountain Kingdom (2017). What I love about the music of Halsey is how she continues to push the boundaries and influences of basic teen female pop/dance music by incorporating darker, Goth-like tones and lyrics.
371. Nas – Illmatic (1994). When Nas released this album, he was being hailed as a new messiah for East Coast and, specifically, New York hip hop scene. This album remains a classic, no matter the genre placement.
370. A Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Marauders (1993). A Tribe Called Quest followed up their brilliant The Low End Theory with this classic album that is steeped in the early-90s jazz-influenced hip hop grooves. ATCQ has got to be considered one of the ten greatest rap artists ever.
369. Michael Jackson – Off the Wall (1979). Listen up youngins! This album was released in a year in which new wave, power pop, punk, metal, hard rock and other genres were battling for supremacy. In the midst of all this confusion, Jackson releases his first ADULT album which provided Jackson with the blueprint to follow on all of his Eighties albums.
368. Pink Floyd – Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967). This was not an album like the Floyd made in the 70s. No songs concerning mental breakdowns or treatises on human psychoses. No, these songs are actually about drug trips and everything else you thought Pink would actually experience. After that album, their former lead singer, Syd Barrett, developed mental health issues and left the band only to be replaced by the great David Gilmore.
367. Rush – 2112 (1967). What happens when a great underground prog-rock band from Canada drops an album whose concept and lyrics were influenced by the works of Ayn Rand, specifically her book Anthem? We get a society of libertarians who don’t fully understand the truth behind the Constitution and government. All of which is unfortunate, because Rush created one helluva album that should help the listener to discern between the strengths and failures of such a philosophy taking over a society. We may actually fully understand 2112 over the next decade if he refuse to learn anything new and keep history in perspective.
366. Cream – Disraeli Guns (1967). Does this album signal the beginning of hard rock? If it does, that one great album to be considered gone zero. This album is exhibit one for Eric Clapton’s god-like comparisons.
365. Roxy Music – Siren (1975). Here is my personal gateway into the world of Roxy Music. What can I say? I dig my rock dressed up glammy.
364. Prince & the Revolution – Parade (1986). In the post-Purple Rain world of Prince, you can tell which album you are listening to because of the music influences in which Prince was obviously indulging himself. For Parade, the whole project reeks of the influence of France, where the accompanying film Under a Cherry Moon was being produced.
363. The Notorious B.I.G. – Ready to Die (1994). Let the arguments begin! Which was the greatest MC? Was it Rakim? Kurtis Blow? Tupac, Biggie, Em, Jay-Z? Nas? Biz Markie? Hell, I don’t know. But, I do know that Ready to Die rocks!
362. The Black Crowes – Shake Your Moneymaker (1990). At the moment in time when The Black Crowes burst upon the scene, rock was in trouble. Guns N’ Roses were terrorizing the world. AC/DC was stalled creatively. Iron Maiden and Metallica were bringing consistently, but they were just a tad too metal, so the Crowes filled a void rather nicely. “Hard to Tell” is an excellent cover song!
361. Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Let’s Face It (1997). This just might be the best Clash album of the Nineties. Another shame that a band who bottled lightning once could never deliver again. This is such a fun, energetic album that is worth revisiting every year.
360. Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls (2013). Just as I was wishing for some good old Muscle Shoals-based R&B rock & roll, I discovered Alabama Shakes. Lead singer Brittney Howard is the band’s focal point, but the rhythm section is the secret weapon.
359. Gnarls Barkley – St. Elsewhere (2006). When a rap artist (Ceelo Green) and a renegade producer (Danger Mouse) come together, you expect a hip hop project. Instead, we were blessed with this alternative take on R&B and pop that continues to resonate today.
358. Coldplay – Viva la Vida, Or Death and All of His Friends (2009). This just might be my favorite Coldplay album since it doesn’t completely rely on Chris Martin’s piano.
357. The Cure – Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me (1987). By 1987, The Cure had been stars in the UK and Europe for nearly a decade, while big sales and fame had alluded them. That is until this album, behind the single “Just like Heaven.” Many people thought lead singer/songwriter Robert Smith was gay, until you read his lyrics. Then it was obvious.
356. D’Angelo – Brown Sugar (1995). D’Angelo’s debut let the listeners know that he loved and was immersed in the music of Marvin Gaye and Prince. But, you could also pick up sounds that were his own. You just knew this guy had the goods to become one of the all-timers.
355. R.E.M. – Monster (1995). After messing around with textures in their music for years, R.E.M. finally decided to make music that actually fits into their raucous live shows. Plus, the boys wanted to answer the call put out by the bands from the Seattle grunge scene. So, Monster is the proof that R.E.M. IS a rock band.
354. Ice Cube – AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted (1990). Ice Cube got tired of the games being played by N.W.A’s management, so the man packed up his written rhymes to go solo. And, he was the first to strike both on his own. AND, he was successful.
353. Tina Turner – Private Dancer (1984). The comeback story of Tina Turner surrounding this album is simply the icing on the cake. That’s because the album is THAT good. Tina was singing for her life, literally. And, fortunately, she was handed some excellent material.
352. David Bowie – Station to Station (1976). In the mid-70s, Bowie spent his time in NYC and Philly soaking up the music of the local R&B scenes. Then he took what he heard in those clubs and filtered it through his art rock and glam layers to create some new pop that would influence some of the New Romantics and other new wave subsets.
351. The Flying Burrito Brothers – The Gilded Palace of Sin (1969). Gram Parsons had been partying with the members of the Stones when he wrote “Wild Horses.” The Stones made a classic out of this slice of Americana music, as it is called today. Parsons gathered up a band of country and rock hotshots to create The Flying Burrito Brothers. They created the blueprint that Linda Ronstadt and Eagles initially used to kickstart their successful careers.