My 500 Favorite Albums of All Time, Day 12 – #81-90

We survived the granddaughters spending Friday and Saturday with us as their mommy and daddy went to Pittsburgh with some friends to see Rage Against the Machine. Personally, I wanted to see them, but I just can’t travel that long for a concert anymore. Plus, those two littles just kicked my ass. However, we are giving those two some memories even though the younger one won’t remember a thing except that we have developed a relationship with her.

Anyway, let’s get to the countdown.

90. Paul Weller – Illumination (2002). Mr. Weller began the new millennium with an excellent set of songs that displays all of his strengths as a singer/songwriter/guitar without succumbing to the modern studio trappings.

89. Fountains of Wayne – Welcome Interstate Managers (2003). Finally, power pop gods, and the creative force behind the fake band The Wonders from the terrific Tom Hanks film That Thing You Do, got the hit album and song (“Stacey’s Mom”) the band always deserved.

88. TLC – Fanmail (1999). TLC burst onto the scene as some cutesy girls from Atlanta who made some fine hip hop-influence bubblegum R&B confections in the early-90s. By the time of the release of this their third album, they had grown into young women stretching to control their careers and get out from under a contract that had made their former management rich but left the ladies in bankrupt. When this album dropped, you could hear their maturation permeate throughout the lyrics, music and accompanying videos and tour. It’s shame that the band in all purposes died when the trio’s troubled rapper Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopes tragically died in a car accident. No matter the talent level of the other two women, they were missing the third leg of the stool of the band’s chemistry. Yet, what a legacy this album left behind.

87. Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998). As the visual centerpiece of arguably hip hop’s most talented group, Ms. Lauryn Hill burst on the scene when Fugees’ monster hit song “Killing Me Softly” burned up the charts. Her looks were model-worthy and her vocals were born in the line of the greats like Aretha and Chaka. But, no one was ready for what she created on her debut solo album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Now, those powerhouse vocals were set loose on lyrics worthy of an urban Joni Mitchell or Carole King set upon a musical landscape that seemed to be designed more by A Tribe Called Quest than anything the Fugees unleashed on their debut. I would probably rank this album higher if I were a younger woman, because I understand how Ms. Hill speaks to their concerns as young mothers, young black women, young women in general. Still, as an old white male, I do not believe that I can fully grasp everything she describes. But, what I can do is empathize, which seems totally inadequate.

86. Jellyfish – Spilt Milk (1993). Jellyfish is a Californian cult band that only produced two albums, with Spilt Milk being the second and last of studio material. The band debuted during the fall of hair metal and the rise of alternative music. Song their complex Pet Sounds/Revolver/A Night at the Opera pure pop gems were totally out of step with the current musical trends. Many aficionados consider this to be their masterpiece, while I tend to look at both releases as co-masterpieces with Spilt Milk being a slight step down. Here, you get all of the Gen X-based mid-70s pop/rock influences (from aforementioned albums) to groups like Wings, Player and Squeeze. This is a pop lovers’ wet dream. You just gotta overlook the band’s silly image of Goodwill-inspired Alice in Wonderland clothing. Members have gone on to solo and production work, as well as guitarist Jason Faulkner and keyboardist Roger Manning Jr. touring as members of Beck’s band.

85. The Cure – The Head on the Door (1985). While the band’s two follow-ups, Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me and Disintegration, were The Cure’s commercial breakthroughs, The Head on the Door is the album that people should have latched onto since it is stuffed full of the band’s best songs. Any album that contains “In Between Days,” “Push,” “Close to Me” AND “A Night like This” HAS got to be considered a classic.

84. The Band – Music from Big Pink (1968). Let’s face it, how many artists can say they made an album that created a whole genre of rock music? Now, let’s narrow the list further by asking how many did it on their debuts? Hmmm, maybe Elvis Presley? Uh, Little Richard? Well, Bob Dylan? I’m not sure if any of them really invented anything on their debuts. They all signified that something was in the water. On the other hand, in 1968, there was country music (Johnny Cash), there was pop/rock (The Beatles), bubblegum (Tommy James & the Shondells), folk rock (Simon & Garfunkel), soul (Aretha Franklin), funk (Sly & the Family Stone) or hard rock (Blue Cheer). Then, upon this album’s release, a new thing, eventually dubbed Americana, was released by The Band. All I need to say is “Tears of Rage,” “I Shall Be Released” and, of course, “The Weight.”

83. Dusty Springfield – Dusty in Memphis (1969). When it came to female soul singers in the 60s, the throne belonged rightfully to Aretha Franklin. But, as you began to make your list, you better not overlook the white woman from the UK Dusty Springfield. While she had made some very good blue-eyed soul across the pond, the music world were left to wonder what she would sound like with an authentic southern-fried soul band would bring to her songs of heartbreak and ache. So, Atlantic tried an Aretha make-over by taking Dusty to Memphis to hook up with a band. After the band laid down some hot tracks, Dusty immediately got stage fright, intimidated by the reality of authenticity of the tracks. So, in a compromise, Dusty was flown to New York City, which calmed her down and allowed her to lay down her magnificent vocals. All of this created one of the greatest soul albums ever, regardless of race. All of which came from the pain of a diminutive bisexual English lass. Isn’t it wonderful how music can reach over all obstacles?!

82. Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols (1977). By 1976, there was a small coterie of musical misfits in NYC who formed bands that adhered to few of the rules plaguing rock music at the time. Over time, these artists were collectively known to be playing punk rock, since they all appeared to dress as if they were toughs from West Side Story. Then came the Ramones tour of the UK. After their blitz through the mother country, punk bands began to spring up all over London, spreading like a virus into other cities and towns throughout the commonwealth. Then, there were also artists who were looking to cash in on a fashion statement under the guise of being part of the French art movement known as the Situationists. From that crowd came Malcolm McLaren who happened to run a clothing boutique in London called SEX. He put together a band of an equipment-stealing tough with big rock star dreams, a rhythm section of actual songwriters and a confrontational front man with maximum charisma and the ability to piss off the masses. Together this ragtag bunch produced one of the most exhilarating albums of all time. Though the band was more of a singles band, this album has stood the test of time by bringing politics and punk anger together for the first time.

81. Guns N’ Roses – Appetite for Destruction (1987). Although this band popped up from the LA hair metal scene, they were much more than dudes playing pop metal in order to pick up chicks and party. Now, don’t get wrong; GNR played to pick up chicks and party. The difference? GNR were street urchins who were battling against everyone to keep their music “real” and their vision “pure.” The band consisted of two songwriting fighters with chips on their shoulders from the farmlands of Indiana (W. Axl Rose and Iggy Stradlin), a Hollywood gun-slinging guitarist (Slash), a Seattle punk expat bassist (Duff) and a terrific but troubled drummer (Steven Adler). When these volatile personalities came together, they created some of the most real feeling music of the 80s, while being a Molotov cocktail of clashing personalities and drug and alcohol issues. At their most focused, as on this album, GNR were a creative nuclear blast that have ever been released on the public. But, the dark side of each member was bubbling just underneath each member’s dermis waiting to explode. The original lineup only held it together long enough to record two EPs and this album. And, this album remains a testament to a band finally putting together all classic rock influences together with punk and metal to give a glorious but never duplicated hard rock experience.

And, that brings us to the end of today’s writing. Stay tuned for more to come as I go through the last 80 albums on my list. Peace.

My 500 Favorite Albums of All Time, Day 11, #91-100

Woo-hoo! Finally, we are starting to cover my 100 Favorite Albums of All Time. I’m pretty pumped to get to pimp all of these albums. Many of them should be gimmes to my family, friends, former students and long-time readers of this blog. However, many of you are relative new to this blog so you will get to read what this overweight, physically disabled old fart believes are the best albums his has heard in his life.

For those keeping score, out of the 100 albums that I am about to discuss, I owe 86 of them on vinyl. And, like I stated yesterday, I had the others on CD though I still own three of them since one is a Paul Weller that I have not replaced and the other two are by Jellyfish, whose vinyl albums not cost in the triple digits. So, when you happen to be on a fixed income, you have to anxiously await the next vinyl release of those two. The other eleven are all going to be replaced by the time I turn 65.

So, let’s quit dilly-dallying around and get to business. Start it!

100. AC/DC – Back in Black (1980). Perhaps no other album screams “High School!” than this one. For whatever reason, my classmates latched onto AC/DC back in middle school when the band’s first American release was purchased by a smart ass kid and got passed around the rockers. Back in August 1979, I got to see Bon Scott as the band’s lead singer. Then, in February 1980, he became another casualty in the rock party attrition game that continues to this very day. According to legend, the band had laid down the musical tracks, waiting for Scott to get back from a bender to add his vocals to them. Unfortunately, he never returned. So, the band quickly found a similar hoarse-sounding screamer in the same vein as Scott by the name of Brian Johnson. His impassioned screaming/singing took the lyrics of loss to a whole new poignant level. This album became the quintessential AC/DC album as well as one of the greatest hard rock/metal albums ever.

99. Prince – Dirty Mind (1980). 1980 was a pretty good year for great albums, and a diminutive guy from Minneapolis took the promise he showed on his eponymously named sophomore release and mixed in flourishes of new wave and a whole bunch of explicit lyrics to create one of rock’s greatest odes to lust ever put to vinyl. While his previous album covers incorporated some shades of his signature color of purple, this album cover was Prince’s first foray into a stark photograph to signal a slight change in his music. In four short years, Prince will take his new innovative sound to its completion in becoming one of the biggest rock stars on Earth only to turn his back on the sound in order to expand his royal sonic palette.

98. Green Day – Dookie (1994). Seriously, it took long enough for punk rock to make a commercial dent in the States. Hell, it was about a decade-and-a-half since punk crawled out of the CBGB and around the world without ever truly gaining a large following in the colonies. Then, the whole Seattle thing knocked down the door, which allowed every musical freak imaginable to walk through and sell some records. One such band was Green Day, who were some Californian skater-punks who started a punk band that had a great grasp on pop melodies, much like The Jam had done to a certain extent or Cheap Trick’s incorporation of punk and new wave trappings into their AOR sound. Regardless, Green Day made a palatable version of punk that later was dubbed punk-pop, kind of a power pop version of punk which was popular at the turn of the century. Green Day captured the slacker zeitgeist of Gen X. While Cobain cowered in the glow of success, Green Day embraced it and that paid off for them as they developed into one of the best rock bands in the world by the end of the 20th century and the dawning of a new millennium.

97. Culture Club – Colour by Numbers (1983). It’s just a shame that Culture Club does not receive the critical kudos that the band deserves. If they were not the premier pop band of the era, Boy George and his mates were certainly one of the Top 5. I loved how the guys mixed 70s soul, smooth jazz, some New Romantic cool, a light touch of reggae and world music and a heavy dose of Motown magic into a compelling pop sound that was an Eighties update of Smokey Robinson, both with and without the Miracles. Culture Club are pop perfection at the perfect time during the androgynously homophobic 80s.

96. Sinead O’Connor – I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got (1990). This album was one of the best to kick off the 90s. Sinead was coming into her own as a mature rock artist who spoke her own mind. After her compelling a capella version of Bob Marley’s “War” on SNL, she ripped up a photo of the Pope in protest of a cover up of priests sexually abusing children through Ireland and the rest of the UK. A decade later, she was proven to be correct, yet her career laid in ruin due to the backlash for speaking her mind. And, we, the music lovers, are the big losers in the whole thing after her muse was ripped from her.

95. Bruce Springsteen – Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978). This album only grows in stature in my book over time. I was taken aback in the day by the starkness of the music and its haunting lyrics. But, after taking several knocks over the years given to me by life, I relate so much better to the album that it continues to rise in stature. Maybe in five years, it will be in my Top 50?!?!

94. XTC – Skylarking (1986). On paper, the pairing of rock Renaissance man Todd Rundgren and punkish popmeisters XTC appeared to be one of the most inspired producer/artist pairings since Phil Spector tried to Wall-of-Sound the Ramones back in 1980. Although the process of the pairing caused creative sparks to fly and arguments ensue, the outcome is an album that is nothing short of spectacular. The album works as an homage to Sgt. Pepper, as well as a parody. But, it also stands as a unique artistic statement by one of more talented pop-smiths to come out of the Second British Invasion. This album is utterly breathtaking.

93. David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars (1972). Let’s start off my long-simmering question: Did David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust persona invent the mullet hair cut popularize by punks and new wavers in the early-80s and taken to a whole other level by American rednecks and world hockey players? Regardless, the music Bowie created when his creative back was up against a wall to produce a hit was transcendent and its ripples could be heard through the Glam Rock movement, punk and new wave into Britpop and beyond. Ziggy remains a fun album to this day.

92. Jimi Hendrix Experience – Electric Ladyland (1968). If Are You Experienced begat George Clinton’s Funkadelic, then this album begat Prince and Living Colour, the two sides of the same coin. This was Hendrix’ final fully realized studio vision that he completed during his tragically short life. In so many ways, I prefer this album over all his others from Jimi’s catalog.

91. Todd Rundgren – Something/Anything? (1972). When Todd Rundgren the Artist allows himself to be himself in the studio, we get this kind of wonderful album. This is four sides of music that runs the gamut of the singer/songwriter (“Hello, It’s Me”), power pop (“I Saw the Light”), Philly blue-eyed soul (“It Wouldn’t Have Made a Difference”), pure AOR (“Slut”) and studio goofiness (when he dicks around the studio showing off his little engineering tricks). Perhaps the emotional centerpiece of the album that simply shows Rundgren’s talent for an all-around great song is “Couldn’t I Just Tell You.” He shows off his ability to take the sounds of the early 70s and distill it all into one terrific pop song. This album represents what happens when an artist lets himself go and just be himself at a period in time. Best of all, this album, along with XTC’s Skylarking are the best examples of his impeccable production abilities.

See you later for the next installment in this series. Peace

My 500 Favorite Albums of All Time, Day 10 – #101-125

It’s taken much longer to get to this point, but hopefully it’s been worth it. This list is what difficult to compile, but I feel like it reflects my tastes fairly well, especially when you throw in the years I covered throughout three decades.

I have been asked many times how many albums I actually own. I really do not like to announce numbers, I feel comfortable doing this on my blog since I’m not widely read. If I remember correctly, I do own between 300 and 400 of the albums on this countdown, and many that I do not own on vinyl I used to own on CD. However, I purged nearly my entire CD collection near the beginning of the pandemic which has knocked my total WAY down as I owned around 1200 CDs. Now, my CD count is below 100 with Prince and Springsteen CDs being slowly replaced by their vinyl counterparts. As far as 7-inch singles, or 45s as they are called here in Indiana, I have close to 400, though now I only collect specific artists (especially Prince, of course) or special releases. In addition, my 12-inch singles/12-inch EP/10-inch EP collection currently stands just a bit under 100. I own approximately 30 box sets, both in vinyl and CD versions. I even own a little over 20 concert videos/documentaries. Despite all of this, my main focus is on vinyl albums, of which I own over 1500, including picture discs and vinyl box sets. To my friends, I may have the largest collection, but rest assured I am nowhere in the Top 100, or even Top 1000, largest collections.

I collect vinyl first for the music. I don’t care, I will listen to all of my purchases, except for the picture discs. Those things are slightly stupid to own but make fantastic artwork hangings in the music room. But, as a reaction to the CD-era and the current streaming age, I love the large, tangible cover and inner sleeves, as well as whatever else is included, be it stickers, a poster, or in the case of Alice Cooper’s School’s Out, paper panties. Plus, during the 60s, 70s and 80s, some musical artists made their packaging some complete works of art. The Velvet Underground’s debut album is an Andy Warhol art piece with a peel-able banana sticker included or the Stones had the man create a usable zipper on the cover of their Sticky Fingers album. Probably the last grand album artwork was a special edition of Talking Heads’ Speaking in Tongues whose packaging was an interesting three-dimensional piece of modern art.

Recently, the introduction of colored vinyl, an old staple of children’s records in the 50s, 60s and 70s, has made a comeback with rock albums. It began when Jack White started Third Man Records in order to release unusual vinyl albums. It then picked up steamed via Record Store Day celebrations since 2008. The final stamp of approval has come in the past five years as both Walmart and Target have been selling special edition colored vinyl of some new and classic albums, making collecting that much more enjoyable.

And, if the current pricing of new vinyl seems steep in comparison to the “good old days,” just keep in mind that your new Prince record in 1984 had a list price of $9.99 would, adjusted for inflation, now cost around $24 in today’s money. Therefore, much of the cost is the same in economic terms. Howevertoday the number of vinyl copies are not being produced at the same levels as they were in the 80s, so there is much more room for growth as a very small investment (You will NEVER get rich with vinyl purchased over the counter; that only happens if you have masters of famous artists or unreleased albums, which are exceptionally rare).

Plus, I just do this because I love to listen to music…all kinds of music.

125. R.E.M. – Document (1987). R.E.M. has always been associated with musical integrity. And, although, this album was a huge hit, the band’s sound was even more aggressive than they had ever recorded. This album was successful because Michael Stipe’s vocals were up front and the playing was aggressive, much like the band’s live shows. The hit was “The One I Loved,” but we all knew back in the day that “It’s the End of World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” had the legs.

124. Van Halen – Van Halen (1978). Was there an across-the-board, unanimous decision about a debut like there was for this album? The album absolutely resonated throughout my high school. And why not? It had everything that would appeal to a teenager: aggressive virtuoso guitarwork, a driving rhythm section, a lead singer who acted like a gameshow host, lyrics about teenage lust and loud rock music. The darkside of this album was that it was the dawning of the hair metal scene that gave us such luminaries as White Lion, Firehouse and, perhaps worst of all, Poison.

123. The Beatles – Rubber Soul (1965). Rubber Soul represents The Beatles shedding their “boy band” personae and embracing a new artistic phase. The album also happens to further signal that rock & roll was becoming rock music, as a new maturity permeated throughout the Fab Four’s music and lyrics. This is the album that influenced Brian Wilson to make The Beach Boys’ classic Pet Sounds, as well as the band acknowledging Bob Dylan in their lyrics. Thank God for this album because we might have gotten The Bangles in return.

122. Supertramp – Breakfast in America (1979). Few expected this former prog rock band to capture the attention of the world, but the band found huge success as the 70s were ending. This is what happens when great songwriting meets great musicianship. Breakfast in America will always hold a special place in my heart.

121. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (2013). My older son made me aware of the whole EDM scene by playing artists such as Moby, Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy, LCD Soundsystem and Daft Punk. But, I could have never imagined how Daft Punk would embrace their inner-Giorgio Moroder to produce a modern disco classic. And they accomplished this by reaching back the glitter ball era and tap Nile Rodgers as their guitarist. In doing so, they hit the jackpot by giving the kids of that generation a taste of what mine all ready knew: Disco rules!

120. The Strokes – This Is It (2001). I distinctly remember telling my boys how I missed Cheap Trick/The Cars-type bands. Shortly after saying that, he came home with this CD, slapped it in the CD player and told me to listen. Yep, those bands were still around at the time. The Strokes, however, had something my bands didn’t and that was a New York cool. For me, The Strokes saved rock music just as I was beginning to think it was dying.

119. Sugar – Copper Blue (1992). The years 1991 through 1994 had some terrific music. Plus, it was a time of the Third Wave of Power Pop. We all knew that a power pop artist was residing deep in the psyche of Bob Mould, as we could hear it all buried behind the feedback and speed of Hüsker Dü and some of his solo work. But when his latest trio Sugar debuted, he put it all out in the open and on display on this outstanding album. Yet, another album I feel as though doesn’t get enough love.

118. David Bowie – Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) (1980). Pound for pound, this just may be my favorite Bowie album. This is where all of his musical instincts and previous experiments combined in one coherent, influential sound. If most of the successful new wave artists that sprung up in the aftermath of this album didn’t get all of their ideas from this album, I’m not sure where exactly they did. Plus, if you carefully watch the video for the terrific “Ashes to Ashes” video, you might recognize that one of the male dancers is future-MTV VJ Alan Hunter. You just don’t get that kind of information from any other rock writer.

117. The Go-Go’s – Beauty and the Beat (1981). As an older member of Generation X, like much of us, I had no idea at the time just how important The Go-Go’s were. I just loved their music. Then, I realized they were accomplishing things that no other band composed completely of women had done so previously. You see, I grew up with female rockers like Fanny, Suzi Quatro, The Runaways, Heart, Pat Benatar, solo Joan Jett, that I simply thought this was normal. At least now we can say that an all-female IS normal. But, it couldn’t have been done if the women of The Go-Go’s weren’t talented musicians and superb songwriters. Plus, they had that added sex appeal that we cannot overlook, since these women appealed sexually to both men and women. I can’t help it, but I will ALWAYS be a Jane and Kathy man!

116. The Rolling Stones – Some Girls (1978). Yes, this album is of its time. It is full of misogyny and unflattering racial stereotypes. But, God, there is so much fantastic music surrounding those gawd awful lyrics. Plus, what other album could give a supremely great dance track (“Miss You”), a faux country tune (“Far Away Eyes”), a Keith Richards cowboy-ish song (“Before They Make Me Run”), some totally wrong songs (“Some Girls” and “Beast of Burden”), a Motown cover (“Imagination”) and a batch of snotty rock songs as an answer to punk (“When the Whip Comes Down,” “Respectable” and “Shattered”). Regardless, when the Stones are on, and they are here, there are few as good.

115. Daryl Hall & John Oates – Abandoned Luncheonette (1973). On their second album, the greatest duo in rock history officially threw their hat in the Yacht Rock ring, though we just called it great music back then. It was as if the guys had been holed up listening to Steely Dan’s debut album and came up with this batch of songs as an answer. This album would be significant if it only contained “She’s Gone,” which inexplicitly would not become a hit for another three years. Yet, it is full of the rock and soul sound for which Hall & Oates became famous. This was their first classic, but not their last.

114. The Stooges – The Stooges (1967). Although 1967 is known for The Summer of Love and all the groovy sounds that followed in its wake, it is significant for being the year in which both punk and alternative music were born. Not only did The Velvet Underground release their debut, but so did our proto-punk heroes from Detroit, The Stooges. Unfortunately, outside of the great Creem magazine, few were singing their praises. Eventually, the rest of the world did catch up.

113. Rage Against the Machine – The Battle for Los Angeles (1999). Man, I love these guys! No one articulated my angst for the free market system than RATM. Plus, they did it with their innovative metal/hip hop amalgamation that was light years ahead of the Nu Metal sound in both execution and style.

112. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Damn the Torpedoes (1979). Petty had the biggest balls in all of rock history. He was in a contract dispute with his band’s record company, held firm and actually broke the company while not even having a real hit or big album. When the dust settled, he got the contract, paid AND his own label. Then, the band released their career-defining album that blew them up so big and fast that it took them years to sort it all out. This is the dawning of the greatest American rock band.

111. Chicago – Chicago II (1970). So, the band dropped the stupid Transit Authority part of their group name and simply called themselves Chicago. Then, they delivered the second consecutive jazz-rock double album. Only this time, the songwriting was more focused AND experimental. This album is most famous for its wonderful Side Two suite Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon which contained TWO monster hits in “Make Me Smile” and “Color My World.” Where else can you get that kind of pop/rock sophistication?

110. The Police – Ghost in the Machine (1981). This album resonates for a couple of reasons. First, you can hear the band on the verge of becoming a musical force, if they weren’t all ready. Second, you knew the volatility of the members of The Police were one day cause the band to implode. One didn’t know at the time that both were coming up in the aftermath of the next album. Ghost in the Machine shows everything that is great about The Police with great playing, lyrics, hooks and one truly classic song in “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic.”

109. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010). This album is something of a hip hop Sgt. Pepper in that everything but the kitchen sink is thrown in to make a timeless sound. If this album had not been made, would we have ever gotten Drake? I doubt it. I still feel like the non-hip hop crowd secretly loves this album.

108. Daft Punk – Discovery (2001). Daft Punk kind of stumbled upon the disco sound on this album, even though a majority of it remains steeped in the EDM of the day. Discovery remains a terrific transition album as the duo goes from EDM auteurs to disco innovators, which makes for a compelling listen.

107. Prince – The Gold Experience (1995). I’m going to level with you. The Gold Experience is the last truly great and classic album in the Prince catalog. All of the subsequent albums, sans the Crystal Ball compilation, all pale in comparison to this magnificent yet vastly underrated album. Any album that contains “Endorphinmachine,” “P. Control” AND “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” has got to be classic in anyone’s book.

106. George Michael – Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 (1990). So, the man unjustifiably never got his songwriting respect as a member of the boy band Wham! Then, for some reason, critics got caught up on the man’s great looks instead of his songwriting on Faith, which battled Michael Jackson’s Bad to a near draw with regards to shear numbers of hit songs. So, Mr. Michael fought back with the greatest song cycle of his career. “Praying for Time” and “Freedom! ’90” are just the hits.

105. No Doubt – Tragic Kingdom (1995). If you were like me and loved the ska produced by the English bands Madness, The Specials and The (English) Beat, then I am certain that you were hooked by this album that seemed to squeeze every 80s new wave hook into one album. Personally, I can never say enough good things about No Doubt and how underrated they seem to have become in the wake of Gwen Stefani’s ascent into mega-celebrity. Just don’t forget that she was a legitimate rocker before all of this Blake Shelton crap started.

104. R.E.M. – Out of Time (1991). Don’t get me wrong. For me, Out of Time is the sound of the band taking a well-deserved victory lap as they break little new ground. Hell, nearly everything sounds like an homage to something older. Yes, “Losing My Religion” IS everything that is great about R.E.M., and their quintessential song. Yet, the lead instrument is an mandolin, which guitarist Peter Buck was just learning to play. My MVP for this album goes to mild mannered bassist/vocalist Mike Mills for his fluid basslines and his underappreciated vocals.

103. The Kinks – The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society (1968).  The Kinks, or should I say specifically Ray Davies, became the master of depicting the average working bloke in England of the late-Sixties. And, the band’s playing only enhanced those lyrics. Suddenly, Brits felted like someone was talking about them and not pandering to some unknown and unseen Americans. This album has been noted as a major influence on all of Paul Weller’s incarnations (The Jam, The Style Council, solo), The Smiths, The Stone Roses, Pulp, Primal Scream, Blur, Oasis, Supergrass, The Libertines and the rest of Britpop. Take a bow!

102. Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique (1989). If you went to the local record store in 1989 to buy this album expecting a sequel to Licensed to Ill, then you got the shock of your life. The whole musical blueprint was thrown away for a whole new cut-and-paste post-modern approach to hip hop. The boys, with the help of producers The Dust Brothers, took the idea of sampling to a whole new level to create a sonic collage which had the sample weaving in and out and around each other to the point where it was often difficult to recognize where one ended and another began. Yet, it made for a compelling soundscape that immediately influenced the hip hop world, though the general public was slow to warm to it. Think of this album as the Beastie Boys’ version of Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk: experimental, compelling, frustrating and rewarding all at once.

101. Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995). This album is a prog rock album dressed up in alternative band’s clothing. And, man, is it ever great! You can hear Billy Corgan piling his guitars up like a Boston album. And D’Arcy’s bass is so low end that you’d think it was almost dragging on the ground. The songs are terrific and stick in your head for days on end. How can a song with no real chorus/refrain like “1979” be a great hit song? Only when it is perfectly executed, that’s how. Let me some it up in one word: Masterpiece!

Brace yourself. The Top 100 is coming!

My 500 Favorite Albums of All Time, Day 9: #126-150

This summer has been so busy, but it is coming to an end. Maybe not according to the calendar nor the earth’s position around the Sun, but when the calendar hits August in an educator’s life, the summer is done. Around here, school starts next week. I hate it for all of the educator’s in my life, but as a retired educator I will only recognize the beginning of the school year with a light bout of depression. Remember, retirement was NOT really my decision, but my back put me in this situation, with so many professional goals left unfulfilled.

While I will have more time in which to write this crazy blog, I will be doing so with a heavy feeling on my heart. By this point in my career, I had hoped to have reached my goal of coaching teams in two different sports to State championships, becoming a good enough coach to have turned it into a color commentary job for broadcasts of my sports, all the while maintaining high standards as a chemistry teacher so my students will have a head start on their peers in college science classes. I know the goals were grand, but who ever said to temper your goals just because they were difficult? Plus, how can you go wrong when you felt as though you were fulfilling a calling?

Anyway, just bear with me as I get myself to Labor Day. Now, without a good segue, let’s turn back to my overwhelming album countdown. Today, we will get a little bit closer to the Top 100. Until then, let’s begin at #150.

150. Kanye West – Late Registration (2005). Ye may just be the artist of the Aughts, and I feel as though this LP solidified his position. The leap forward in his vision was light years beyond his terrific debut a brief two years earlier. Kanye the artist lost his grounding after his mother tragically passed a young age.

149. The Waterboys – Fisherman’s Blues (1988). When The Waterboys first hit the scene, they were being touted as Scotland’s answer to U2 with the soaring anthems of their debut album. Yet, when Mike Scott went to record his band’s third album, he came under the spell of Celtic folk music in much the same way Kevin Rowland of Dexys had seven years earlier. Once again, this turn paid off artistically for a UK artist.

148. Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973). Back when this was a new album, my uncle asked his history classes at his high school which three albums he and my aunt should purchase to give me for my 10th birthday. According to the man himself, the only unanimous choice was this album, along with Goat’s Head Soup by the Stones and Alice Cooper’s immortal School’s Out. Of course, this is the one I wore out several times over. I might just be on my third or fourth copy of the album in three different formats. You just can’t say that about every album.

147. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (1976). This album was one helluva debut. Too bad it didn’t enter my collection until AFTER I had heard “Breakdown” on the excellent late-70s soundtrack FM. The song was given a primo position of being on the Side One of the first record, but the song didn’t catch on with Indiana radio due to the title track by the hot Steely Dan and a terrific song by Joe Walsh called “Life’s Been Good.” Regardless, “Breakdown” captured my heart, leading me to become a lifelong Petty fan. This album is an absolute delight.

146. Tom Petty – Wildflowers (1994). Every time doubt has crept into my mind about a Petty album, he generally comes back with guns blazing. Into the Great Wide Open was good but not great. Then, Petty quietly dropped this solo bomb on us and suddenly everyone seemed to be singing his praises. Solo or with The Heartbreakers, there are few songwriters who can match Petty’s catalog depth (others matching him are for me Prince, Weller and Springsteen).

145. Paul Weller – Wild Wood (1993). Paul Weller released an excellent debut that saw him tackling and accepting his musical influences into his mod-ish sound. Still, in true Weller fashion, it’s always the next couple of albums that constantly improve upon the initial vision. And that’s the case with this album. Paul is now pushing into his thirties and forging a whole new direction that will end up opening the British floodgates for a new sound known as Britpop.

144. Gin Blossoms – New Miserable Experience (1992). I’m not gonna lie, but I am a sucker for great music that uses a jangling guitar. And the Gin Blossoms filled this album with hit after hit based upon that wonderful power pop sound. I bet I play this album a couple times a month.

143. Bruce Springsteen – The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle (1973). I believe it was Dave Marsh who described the three songs on Side Two of this album sounding like the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of a weekend in the life of a twenty-something. What a romantic thought! And not just because “Rosalita” remains my favorite Saturday party song!

142. Elvis Costello & the Attractions – This Year’s Model (1978). Elvis debuted on the 1977 SNL Christmas episode. He was a last minute replacement for the Sex Pistols who were having trouble get visas to tour America. Elvis was told not to play “Radio, Radio,” a terrific cut from this soon-to-be-released album. After playing another song for about a minute, Elvis stops the band and kicks full blasted into a venom-influenced version of his rant about radio censorship. And this album if stuffed full of the type of angry songs for which Elvis became a household name.

141. Grateful Dead – American Beauty (1970). It’s crazy to think that a band would release their best two albums in a single year, but artists did it all the time in the 60s and 70s. Therefore, it was little surprise that the Dead would find their musical sweet spot by following The Band down the Americana path for a bit. These guys were so talented that it may have been difficult to get them to focus on a three-to-five minute song with little deviations or instrumentation noodling. But they did first on Workingman’s Dead and again on American Beauty.

140. Roxy Music – Avalon (1982). Arguably, Roxy Music created the most beautiful and sexiest album of the 80s with Avalon. Gone were all of the squawks and squeaks of their past sonic experimentation with a musical refinement never expected for these Glam Rock survivors. Roxy showed all the early-80s New Romantics how to update the Roxy sound.

139. Beastie Boys – Ill Communication (1994). The Beasties changed the direction of popular hip hop three times on their first three albums. So what if the boys decided to rest a bit in order to amalgamate those albums into a punk-influenced sound. All I need to say is “Intergalactic.”

138. The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses (1989). Although The Stone Roses’ place in the Sun only really lasted for this album, it is noteworthy because they played something of a John the Baptist presaging the whole Britpop movement of the 90s. To this day, their swirling brand of psychedelia-meets-the-80s dance rock was some of the most exciting music of the late Eighties, especially when they are juxtaposition with the sound-alike quality of the hair metal bands.

137. New Order – Power, Lies & Corruption (1983). When Ian Curtis died, Joy Division went with him. So, the other three in the band added another keyboardist and some dance rhythms to the synthpop/rock sound that brought the darkness to the dancefloors all over the world. While the band’s subsequent releases were more commercially appealing, this album remains the most intriguing and sexy.

136. Taylor Swift – Red (2012/2021). Personally, I prefer the roughed up sound of Taylor’s version of this album, but I get why purists will stick with the original. Regardless, Red is noteworthy for Taylor’s growth into songwriting womanhood, upon which her reputation as a singer/songwriter is based. I cannot say enough good things about Red, except if you date Ms. Swift, don’t dump her and piss her off because she will have the final word on the relationship in song.

135. A Tribe Called Quest – The Low End Theory (1991). By the early-90s, hip hop was in a constantly evolving stage. Trends were coming and going, but the true visionaries were focused on their rhymes and the beats, no matter the source. Case in point, the great and legendary A Tribe Called Quest. At the time, no one could match their verbal dexterity, jazz-based samples and the exquisite low end. These guys were hip hop prophets who are worthy of the term genius.

134. Madonna – Like a Virgin (1984). This album sent shockwaves around my college campus back in the day. It’s as if there was a history of pre-Like a Virgin and post-. Suddenly, girls on campus and at the mall were dressing like mini-versions of Madge. The album represents the selling of the total package of Madonna: fashion, visual and musical. We were on the dancefloor for Prince, Michael, “You Dropped a Bomb on Me,” but stayed when Madonna followed.

133. The Knack – Get The Knack (1979). The Summer of 1979 was all about two albums, this one and Cheap Trick’s At Budokan. What a summer! I have nothing but great memories of the music at the time. And, honestly, this one led the way. I didn’t give a rat’s ass about The Beatles trappings that the Boomers were bitching about. No, I thought the power pop was outstanding! This album was hot from beginning to end and signified the beginning of the MTV generation two years BEFORE MTV went on the air. Just give this wonderful band it’s due. I’m sorry their management made the band look like dicks. Yes, they should have been on all the TV shows of the day: the Grammys, American Music Awards, American Bandstand, hell, even Soul Train if they would’ve had them. But, that was not the guys. And I never understood the backlash. It wasn’t like they were on the radio 24/7. It was only a sixth of that around these neck of the woods.

132. Steve Wonder – Fulfillingness’ First Finale (1974). What an album! This is Stevie at his near-peak. Every song is a classic. So, how did he top it? He recorded a double album AND an EP’s worth of music at this level, that’s how. Stevie was rarely as funky or in command of his muse as he was here.

131. Phil Spector (And Various Artists) – A Christmas Gift for You (1962). This wonderful album has the dubious distinction of having a release date that ended up being the day President John F. Kennedy died, so Americans were in no mood for some of the best Christmas music ever put to vinyl. However, the album has been discovered and enjoyed by people in the Yuletide season. Of course, Darlene Love was the undisputed MVP of the album, but don’t forget The Shirelles’ contributions when making your annual Christmas playlist.

130. Dexys Midnight Runners – Too-Rye-Aye (1981). I find it rather ironic that I would be singing the praises of this album at the same time as I did for Fisherman’s Blues by The Waterboys, as they are cousins. Both are steeped in Celtic folk music, though Dexys filters it through Van Morrison, while The Waterboys went through U2 for their sound. Funny also that both are highly influenced by Irish artists as well. But, I absolutely love Dexys take on Van Morrison’s soulful sound, giving it an update for a new wave. This is a highly underappreciated album that needs re-evaluation.

129. Bob Dylan – Bringing It Back Home (1965). If you could distill Bob Dylan into three albums without relying upon any compilations, then you HAVE to choose this one. This is a simple tour de force as Dylan dips his toes into going electric. Oh the blasphemy!

128. Daryl Hall & John Oates – Voices (1980). At the dawn of the 80s, the duo left Philly for the Big Apple to be closer to all that was happening in the rock and dance clubs in addition to what was happening in the streets. There was an artistic renaissance of sorts happening and Hall & Oates knew they had to be there. They soaked in the environment and quit relying on producers to ruin their sound and vision (Damn you David Foster for ruining what should have been a wonderful X-Static LP! I will NEVER forgive that man for that and ruining Chicago in the mid-80s. I think he just might be Satan. NOTE: I’m joking about Satan, but he does over-power the artists he is producing). In the meantime, they hit their stride as songwriters and this was the just the beginning of the Hall & Oates monster of the Eighties.

127. Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer (2018). What’s an artist to do when you want to have a sound influenced by Prince without relying on him to produce your album. Well, you hang and jam with the man. Monáe did just that and created her best album to date. If Prince had only lived to hear this album it might have given him the kick in the butt to battle her in a friendly game of artistic vision.

126. Nirvana – MTV Unplugged in New York (1994). Remember the whole MTV Unplugged series of concerts that breathed some new life into the acoustic guitar? It was all the rage in the 90s. There were some pretty average performances (most of them), some that were overrated (Sorry Mark Kline, we will have to agree to disagree on this one my friend!) and some that were transcendent (Stone Temple Pilots, R.E.M., LL Cool J all come to mind). But the granddaddy of them all is Nirvana. What we didn’t realize at the time but see in hindsight how this show was in essence a wake for Kurt Cobain who would commit suicide before the airing of the show. The performance is eerie, haunting and reaffirming all at once. I love that Kurt dug up songs by The Vaselines, Leadbelly, The Meat Puppets AND Bowie and interspersed them with his own tales. This is simply a magnificent and poignant album.

And that brings us to the end of this section. FYI: I got my Springsteen tickets today. And, unless Pearl Jam, Paul Weller, The Cure, The Bangles or Depeche Mode come through, I may be retiring from my concert life. Outside of Billy Joel’s appearance at the Notre Dame football stadium, the other concerts I attended were all just okay. Maybe it’s me. I guess we’ll next year.

My 100 Favorite Albums of All Time, Day #8 – #151-175

Why don’t we get right to the countdown? Okay? Let’s go!

175. Lady Gaga – The Fame (2008). Perhaps the best commentary about Gaga was made in that recent Netflix film starring Rebel Wilson in which Wilson has been in a coma since her senior year only to wake up in her mid-30s. When she saw Gaga’s pic on a hospital copy of People magazine, she said, “Oh great! Madonna’s changed her name to Lady Gaga.” The difference? Gaga is one helluva vocalist. All you need to do is compare the two women’s Super Bowl Halftime Shows. Gaga was compelling throughout her performance. Of course, she was still at the top of her game while Madge was trending downward. Still, Gaga’s debut is stellar, showing how she was mixing Madonna with a little Bowie and a little Queen in order to create her patented sound.

174. Hole – Celebrity Skin (1998). Upon the death of her husband Kurt Cobain, lead Hole Courtney Love needed to follow up her excellent Live Through This album. People were awaiting failure since many believed that Cobain had written the songs on that aforementioned LP. Imagine the number of critics who were forced to eat crow when this album was dropped in 1998. On Celebrity Skin, Ms. Love tackles what it takes to be in the public eye and all over the tabloids.

173. John Lennon – Imagine (1971). The title song is the closest that Lennon ever got to writing a hymn. Of course, “Imagine” made Lennon a magnet for controversial comments. Seriously, no religion means we are living in harmony. Need he spell it all out? Geez! Oh, the rest of the album is terrific as well!

172. Sly & the Family Stone – Stand! (1969). After a good 50+ years, I have decided that Sly & the Family Stone gave the best performance at Woodstock, which, contrary to popular opinion, was full of an abundance of lackluster sets. Still, Sly Stone brought a combination of gospel, rock, R&B and funk to a fairly vanilla line-up. Plus, the cuts from this LP just came alive in the live setting, which only reinforces the brilliance of this album. This is Sly’s 1999, or was Prince’s 1999 his Stand! Regardless, you get the point, I think.

171. John Cougar Mellencamp – Uh-Huh (1983). Uh-Huh came at a point in Mellencamp’s career when he could have continued down the pop/rock path or he could reach for rock immortality by injecting Dylanesque lyrics into his Midwestern tales. Fortunately, he chose the latter as heard in “Pink Houses.” Still, he could still blow a wall down in a club with “Play Guitar” and “The Authority Song,” an ode to his younger days.

170. Rush – Moving Pictures (1981). Few, if anyone at all, tapped into the collective angst of the suburban male as Rush did in their trilogy of albums: Permanent Waves (1980), Moving Pictures and Signals (1982). And this happened to be Rush at their commercial and artistical peak. Everything about the album reached into our collective troubled male souls at the time and gave voice to everything we felt.

169. Elton John – Elton John (1970). Technically, this album is NOT the former Reginald Dwight’s debut album. Yet, it is credited with introducing the world to the man who would quickly become the most flamboyantly famous rocker of the first half of the 70s. If Elton and lyricist Bernie Taupin had only written “Your Song,” their place in history would be secure. But, as we know, this was just their next step. 

168. The B-52’s – Cosmic Thing (1989). The Eighties were a decade for some of rock’s most dramatic career resurrections. We all remember the comeback of Tina Turner, along with some lesser ones like Tom Jones with the Art of Noise or Dusty Springfield with the Pet Shop Boys. But, when guitarist/songwriter/group visionary Ricky Wilson quietly succumbed to complications due to AIDS in 1986, many thought The B-52’s died with him. However, to honor their fallen comrade, drummer Keith Strickland taught himself Ricky’s unique guitar sound and led the band to greater heights on Cosmic Thing.

167. OutKast – Stankonia (2000). Arguably hip hop’s greatest band gave us one of rock’s greatest albums in 2000. Stankonia may be the sound of Atlanta coming alive, but it also stands as a legacy to the Parliament/Funkadelic sound. It is likewise the sound of hip hop growing up in its most diverse era, not unlike the sound of rock in the early Seventies.

166. Sleater-Kinney – Dig Me Out (1997). When grunge hit, you expected an all-female band to rise to the top from that scene. Unfortunately, bands L7 never gained the traction to transcend the genre. That hole was eventually filled by this all-female punk trio Sleater-Kinney on their mid-Nineties tour de force Dig Me Out which has been namedropped as a huge influence by punk bands in their wake. I cannot praise the band’s musicianship enough.

165. J. Geils Band – Freeze-Frame (1981). In the late-70s and early-80s, I was a huge fan of Geils. They played that danceable 60s frat rock sound that I loved. by the late-70s, they began to incorporate new wave stylings into their party sound. And it all came together perfectly on Freeze-Frame, the last studio album recorded with frontman extraordinaire Peter Wolf. If you can’t hear “Flamethrower,” then you must have lost your hearing blasting that song at frat parties in college in the early-80s.

164. Bill Withers – Just as I Am (1971). It’s hard to describe Bill Withers’ importance in this day and age. The man was a folkie at heart, while maintaining the soulful nature of his upbringing. And this clashing of worlds made for interesting and moving music while Withers was at the top of his game. Bill is best known for “Ain’t No Sunshine,” which is found on this very underrated album.

163. Aretha Franklin – Lady Soul (1968). When Aretha got to Atlantic Records, she finally found the sympathetic ears she needed to bring to life the sounds she heard in her head. Her mix of gospel, soul and Southern rock has been so influential on rock music that much of that influence has been lost over time. There is nothing like listening to these white good old boys steeped in the Southern blues backing and pushing Aretha into her Queen’s throne.

162. Bruce Springsteen – The River (1980). The Boss burst onto the scene back in ’75 behind his stupendous Born to Run album. In 1978, he released a stark album, Darkness on the Edge of Town, that was influenced by the punk sounds bubbling up from the underground. By 1980, Bruce was on quite a creative roll that he and his band had recorded enough high quality songs to fill a double album. The album is a celebration of every stage of his short career, with enough burners to fuel a frat party in addition to the dark songs of reality he was just beginning to write. It’s a shame that all double albums are not as consistent as The River.

161. Adele – 21. (2011). Every generation has the female singer that represents the best of it. The 60s had Aretha, the 70s had Donna Summer, the 80s belonged to Whitney Houston, the 90s was Mariah Carey and the Aughts was Amy Winehouse and Beyoncé. And the 20Teens were Adele’s moment. Her debut album showed some promise but in no way prepared us for the jump in talent her songwriting would take. My goodness, it was as if the young lady had amalgamated all the divas before her, learnt their lessons and spewed out beautiful songs of loss and pain that transcended her young age of 21. This is one of the best albums of the 21st century, if not all of history.

160. Radiohead – In Rainbows (2007). Radiohead had blown apart rock music on Kid A, so they were finally rearranging the pieces into a whole new sound on this album. The album, at the time, was thought to be blowing up the whole industry by offering the album for download on the website at a “name your own price.” The experiment worked for them, but the new idea ran its course when U2 gave away an album to every iTunes user, only to piss off Millennials all around the world because they got something free that they didn’t want. Now, vinyl reigns, and I want this album on vinyl. Go figure.

159. Rage Against the Machine – Rage Against the Machine (1992). I remember critics bitching that RATM had signed with one of the biggest labels in the world by asking how could they be anti-capitalist while working for The Man? I called the move brave and extremely insidious. Unfortunately, my Gen X brethren loved the music but didn’t read the lyrics sheet. I just think the band’s impact has been diluted over the years of cynicism. They were telling us 30 years ago that society was moving in the direction where we are today if we didn’t do something fast. We need this band more than ever!

158. Talking Heads – Fear of Music (1979). My initiation in the world of Talking Heads had begun with their appearance on SNL the previous year. With this album, I was quickly immersing myself in a much more rewarding listening experience with the Heads than say REO Speedwagon. “Life During Wartime” has unfortunately aged quite well, as the sentiments ring true today. And “Heaven” will NEVER age! It is eternal.

157. The Doors – The Doors (1967). So, during the Summer of Love in 1967, was kicked off by the release of Sgt. Pepper, Are You Experience and a bunch of groovy pop tunes. But, the dark underbelly of American life was being unleashed on the east coast by The Velvet Underground and on the west coast by The Doors. This was no “Peace & Love” and “Flower Power” message. No, The Doors sang of the darkness of drugs, love and Oedipal complexes. The music was foreboding, with a spaciousness that a missing bass would make it so very compelling. Darkness was never so sexy as Jim Morrison before his ego and alcohol abuse destroyed his impact.

156. Van Morrison – Astral Weeks (1968). This is not your tradition pop/rock album. It sounds like pop, rock and soul, but its music lacks the pop song structure of verse/chorus/verse. No, it’s more like jazz with ventures into some new musical form not unlike the New Age stuff of the late-80s, only without the domination of synthesizers. But, if you want some terrific music just to listen to and be, well, this is just the tonic for you.

155. Queen – A Day at the Races (1976). You can’t blame Queen for going down the same street again after the breakthrough success of A Night at the Opera the previous year. Sure, the album structure mirrored their previous album, yet this batch of songs were awfully good. “Somebody to Love” is the gospel-influenced cousin to the operatic “Bohemian Rhapsody.” This album was stuck on my turntable throughout the last half of my eighth grade year in school.

154. Neil Young – Harvest (1972). There always seems to be a point in an artist’s career when they create the right album at the right time. And when you are Neil Young, those can happen at any moment because he is so artistically restless. According to all of his subsequent labels, this is the album they want from him every year. But ever the contrarian, Young will not be pigeonholed. But, he did the whole singer/songwriter persona better than anyone else on this immensely personal album.

153. N.W.A – Straight Outta Compton (1988). By 1988, Gun N’ Roses seemed like the only artist who was popular and dangerous. Shoot, to the general population, rap music was simply party music. But, there was a “reality rap” underground burgeoning at the time, and out of that loose scene was a west coast crew dubbed N.W.A who took the danger to a whole new level. Now, hip hop had their metal/heavy rock artist not afraid to point out society’s ills and stick it in the face of the authorities. N.W.A gave us Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and Eazy-E, three of hip hop’s biggest visionaries of the 90s. This album, Metallica’s Master of Puppets, Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction, Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and Rage Against the Machine’s self-title debut are my all-time “I’m pissed at the world music” and used on my high pain days to shout it out.

152. Talking Heads – Speaking in Tongues (1983). So, where does a band go after a revelation of an experiment album (Remain in Light) and the super-success of an off-shoot band (Tom Tom Club)? In the middle, they shall meet. So, the Afrobeats and funk were spiced up with a little pop and disco sheen, and, viola, Remain in Light was born. It remains the Heads’ biggest seller.

151. Beyoncé – Lemonade (2016). I don’t know how one of the biggest pop icons of the day could secretly write and record not just one but TWO classic albums of deeply personal music and lyrics to be so quietly dropped on the public like Queen Bey did. I find this album to be the more compelling of the two, as we get a glimpse into the marriage of Jay-Z and Beyoncé.

My 500 Favorite Albums of All Time, Day 7 – #176 – 200

I survived another grandchild’s birthday weekend! Of course, that action of the celebration was followed by the Newtonian reaction of the next 36 hours of being down and in excessive pain. I know Newton was describing a mass in motion, but his laws of motion seem to poetically work in other aspects of our lives. Yes, I AM a science nerd. But, at one time, this nerd was a pretty decent athlete…at least, a legend in his own mind.

So, what albums does the nerd have for the public? Check it out.

200. Daryl Hall & John Oates – H2O (1982). Was the album title the formula for the duo’s success: one Oates song for every two Hall songs? If you look at the songwriting credits, the formula works on this album. This album should get much more love since it contained so many hits: “Maneater,” “One on One” and “Family Man,” plus some stellar deep cuts such as “Italian Girls” and “Open All Night.” The boys and their band were at their creative peak here.

199. Prince – Emancipation (1996). By the mid-Nineties, Prince was in such a groove, that he was recording albums of new material nearly each month. Due to that recording rate, Prince felt constrained by his record company, who would not release everything he recorded. Thus began his fight to be released from his Warner Brothers contract symbolized by his writing SLAVE on the side of his face and changing his name to that unpronounceable symbol. This triple-CD (and just a couple of years ago, six-LP) set was released and Prince aficionados all over were struggling to keep up with the man. Still, this is a prime example at the breadth of Prince’s talent and his ability to assimilate any and all musical influences seamlessly.

198. MGMT – Oracular Spectacular (2008). What happens where a couple of Millennial punks purchase an old Eighties Casio keyboard and write some tunes with it? They create one of the most fun and loosest albums of the Aughts. What a delightful debut album.

197. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN. (2017). Until this album, only classical and jazz artists had won a Pulitzer Prize in music. And, the award went to the finest young voice in hip hop at this point in time. The Pulitzer Board put it best when they described the album as “a virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life.” Finally, the snobbish public was discovering that hip hop was becoming the folk music of the new millennium.

196. Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison (1968). By 1968, Johnny Cash was at a crossroads in his career. Was he going to give into his demons and either burn out or die early, or was he going to go clean and revitalize his career? With the help of his wife, June Carter Cash, The Man in Black got clean and went to the prison he made famous in one of his first hit songs to perform a no-holds-barred performance that had him connecting to the country’s most downtrodden, to prove that he was the man of the people.

195. Radiohead – Kid A (2000). I remember the hype behind this album being deafening. Then it dropped, and my son and his buddies went apeshit over it. This was the commercialization of the anti-music stuff that I had listened to during the post punk era. The difference is that Radiohead added electronica to the mix to give their songs of alienation some musical alienation, even though the general public seemed to eat this release up.

194. Guns N’ Roses – Use Your Illusion II (1991)

1993. Guns N’ Roses – Use Your Illusion I (1991). These two albums were released simultaneously. Personally, you cannot have one without the other. As you see, I give I a slightly higher ranking of the two, mainly because that album contains the more mainstream hits: “Don’t Cry,” a cover of Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die” and the classically overblown power ballad “November Rain.” Both albums taken as a whole shows that the band were trying to reach for the stars. While they didn’t always meet their goal, you can’t fault them for trying.

192. Van Morrison – Moondance (1970). This is peak Van Morrison at the beginning of his run of fantastic Celtic soul records. This album is where Dexys Midnight Runners (or, today, just Dexys) copped their Irish soul brothers sound. I’m biased, but this is a terrific place to start for all white soul boys.

191. Ray Charles – Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music (1962). The only thing that matters as far as music is concerned is where you were born. Skin color, socioeconomic status and the rest of that crap really doesn’t matter. Case in point, Brother Ray Charles, who grew up in rural Georgia. The man was influenced equally by the country and western music as he ever was by the gospel from his church or the blues of his townsfolk. And, in 1962, he crossed the racial lines of the music industry to create this masterpiece of rock amalgamation. So, the next time your redneck neighbor says “Old Town Road” is not country, remind that person of this album.

190. Paul & Linda McCartney – Ram (1971). For all of us who were just kids still in their single digits in age, all I need to say is “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey.” Sure, it’s not Side Two of Abbey Road, but I’d argue that this album has a happy and relaxed Paul running the show with Linda riding his coattails a bit. Who cares? Theirs was a fantastic love story.

189. Paul Simon – Graceland (1986). To me, this is Simon’s classic album. Who knew that the Sweto music of South Africa would push a Jewish NYC man to greater heights as an artist? I know it seems like a bit of a reach to record a song with Los Lobos, but it does work within the context of this album.

188. Daryl Hall – Three Hearts in the Happy Ending Machine (1986). By the mid-80s, Hall & Oates were burning out as a duo. So, Daryl took his latest batch of songs into the studio with suddenly hot musician/producer Dave Stewart of Eurythmics to create this little pop trip into the psychedelic world of synthpop.

187. Nirvana – In Utero (1993). This seemed to happen often: an underground releases an album at the correct time in history to completely capture the zeitgeist of the music-listening world. At the end of 1991, that’s exactly what happened with Nirvana and their now-mythical Nevermind album. In response, when the band was called upon to release a follow-up, Nirvana turned up the abrasiveness and aggression on their Beatlesque set and created yet another masterpiece, which further confused their troubled lead singer/guitarist/songwriter. Just as they were knocking Guns N’ Roses off the throne for the biggest band in the world, Kurt Cobain killed himself. And the public was left wondering just where the band would have headed.

186. Primal Scream – Screamadelica (1991). In the small amount of time between the fall of hair metal and the rise of grunge/alternative music in the USA and Britpop in the UK, Britain has a handful of interesting bands on indie labels releasing a fun mix of Stones-ish rock and ecstacy-influenced dance music, of which Primal Scream was one of the best, along with Stone Roses. This stuff was so much fun that I wished the trend had spread over here.

185. George Harrison – All Things Must Pass (1970). The Beatles formula was to give a song to Ringo for him to sing, allow George to have a song or two per album and let Lennon and McCartney have the rest. As Harrison grew in stature as a songwriter, he had less and less of an outlet for his burgeoning skills. Therefore, he took a large stack of tracks, recorded them with his bandmates and other famous musicians, hired Phil Spector to produce the album and created this beautiful TRIPLE album of his outstanding music. This was and continues to be a feat to behold. Suddenly, the quiet one was quiet no longer.

184. Marvin Gaye – Let’s Get It On (1973). Prince was NOT the first artist to record and release an album that explicitly discussed sex. No. Arguably, that crown belongs to Marvin Gaye with this album. Never has a sexier batch of songs was ever put to vinyl.

183. The Monkees – The Monkees (1966). Say what you want about the Prefab Four Boomers. These guys brought rock music to Generation X when their reruns began to appear on Saturday mornings. Then, in a stroke of brilliance, MTV brought the series back for a whole other generation, The Millennials, to gain influence in 1986. The Monkees’ debut, along with their sophomore release, are lessons in pop/rock songwriting with some of the era’s finest songwriters contributing tracks to the band.

182. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Déjà Vu (1970). After CSN’s successful Woodstock debut and their big-selling debut album, the trio added the mercurial Neil Young to the mix to create the legendary band’s finest album. This disc is loaded with timeless classics for which the legendary quartet are known. This is the group at the absolute finest.

181. The Rolling Stones – Exile on Main Street (1972). Critics pretty much have anointed this album a classic. Personally, I prefer my Stones’ music a little more tighter than this laidback drug-addled release. Regardless, this is one helluva album.

180. The Cure – Disintegration (1989). It took The Cure a decade to reap the commercial benefits that much of the prior music deserved, but better late than never. Maybe it was due to the fact that there is absolutely no filler on this album. Or, maybe the public finally caught up to the sound of The Cure. Either way, it was a win-win situation of The Cure and for us.

179. Paul Weller – Wake Up the Nation (2010). There was a time in the States when the public rewarded an artist for standing up to the man during a crisis. This album is Paul Weller’s treatise against the corporate raiders that caused the financial collapse of the late-Aughts. While Weller was busy calling out the criminals and spewing enough outrage for the English-speaking world, the album stiffed here while being lauded and purchased throughout the UK. Wake up America! You are missing an artist for the ages.

178. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d. city (2012). Here is the album which made Lamar a household name and introduced him as the finest MC of the 20Teens. His rhymes and insight are beyond his age.

177. Daryl Hall & John Oates – Private Eyes (1981). The album which proved Voices was NOT a fluke. Hall & Oates were back in a much bigger fashion than during their mid-70s reign. Gone were the yacht rock trappings, replaced by a new wave urgency and NYC club freshness that allow the duo to dominate during the first half of the 80s.

176. John Mayer – Continuum (2006). After winning a big Grammy for his song “Heavy,” Mayer returned to action with his Millennial version of Gaye’s What’s Going On. Although Continuum is neither as accomplished or anguished as Gaye’s masterpiece, Mayer did put to record some Millennial angst over the economy, the Iraq War, and a whole slew of anxieties experienced by the generation of my children. Mayer’s grooves are smooth and sexy while tackling these topics.

My 500 Favorite Albums of All Time, Day 6 – #201-250

Welcome, friends, to the sixth day of this insane countdown with a little commentary included. I did not realize just how much of an undertaking I was planning, but I anticipate the whole series to be a little better as the numbers get lower.

For some reason, I have been on an AOR kick. It began with me finding a couple of Dennis DeYoung autographed Styx albums at Half-Price Books last week, which led me to burning through that catalog, followed by Journey, and, now, today, Foreigner. And, yes, I’m going in chronological order since I am probably more left-brained than right, though all of those tests continue to say I have no brain. So, what’s a guy to do?

Except to just jump back into the list.

250. Stevie Wonder – Innervisions (1973). Once Motown gave Marvin Gaye his creative freedom, Stevie demanded and received the same in the early-70s. And that opened up the musical world for Stevie, who subsequently went on a five year creative run that is matched by few. Innervisions, an excellent album on its own, may be one of the weaker collections, though I’d think that most artists would love to have created this one. I am truly splitting hairs now.

249. Rush – Permanent Waves (1980). On Rush’s previous release, Hemispheres (1978), they took the whole prog rock-meets-metal thing as far as they could. Suddenly, the Canadian super trio found themselves surrounded by the new sounds of The Police, Talking Heads and the rest of the art school new wavers with their concise songs and polyrhythms. So, Rush challenged themselves to change with the times and thusly created a whole new Rush language. This album is the transition of their career to becoming rock gods.

248. Neil Young – Harvest Moon (1992). For the better part of two decades, record companies and Young’s fans had been clamoring for more music along the lines of Young’s most commercially successful album Harvest (1972). Along the way, the man re-invented himself as a proto-grunge artist and a proto-Americana artist, while also dabbling in electronica, rockabilly, AOR rock and straight on country. Young had recorded a formal follow-up to Harvest during the mid-70s called Homegrown but waited 45 years to release it (in 2021). Then, suddenly, the man plopped this brilliant gem down in the midst of a mini-career revival in 1992. And, the public rejoiced that he rediscovered his CSNY wheelhouse. And, then, just as quickly, the man went on to other sounds.

247. The Black Keys – El Camino (2011). Arguably the best and definitely the most commercially successful rock band of the 21st century, The Black Keys took a similar guitar-and-drums sound that White Stripes popularized in the early-Aughts, and made some terrific stripped-down blues rock. This is arguably their finest moment to date.

246. Michael Jackson – Dangerous (1991). At the very moment Jackson was defining the Eighties dance/pop sound with Thriller and Bad, along came some younguns with something called New Jack Swing, which was the first marriage between hip hop beats with R&B. Michael wasn’t the King of Pop for nothing, so he began to incorporate this new sound into his patented sound to create a Michael for the early-90s. Unfortunately, Michael began to lose to his muse at this time as his life devolved into tabloid fodder with exotic pets, a stunted maturity level, chronic pain and a pain-killer addiction and a purported penchant for young boys. But, before all of that, he was THE SHIT, as a college friend used to say.

245. Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation (1988). Sometimes, public tastes and band development finally collide that leads to an album becoming successful. Such is the case with alternative music stalwarts Sonic Youth. They finally got their experimental guitar sounds married to some concise pop strictures and created a wonderfully left-field album that would go on to influence the whole 90s Lollapalooza nation. “Teen Age Riot” is a fantastic slice of alternative rock heaven.

244. Jimi Hendrix Experience – Axis: Bold as Love (1967). The Experience did not suffer a sophomore slump on this album, their second. It was only a slight step down from the debut. It’s hard to believe that Hendrix only got three studio albums of material recorded before his untimely death. And 50 years on, no one has ever caught up with him.

243. Kiss – Alive! (1975). In 1975, Kiss was NOT a punchline to a joke. They were the underground darlings for teenagers all over. For some reason, their first three studio albums did not catch on with the public, but concert-goers were in love with the band’s extravagant live shows. So, it made sense to record a few concerts and create a sonically-enhanced “concert” with mistakes covered and crowd enthusiasm cranked up to 11 in the studio, all to give the fans the ultimate tribute to the band’s live prowess. And, it worked, as everyone in my middle school must have been given a copy of the album over Christmas 1975, except for my German Baptist friends whose religion prohibited them from enjoying the sinful life of their secular friends. Somehow, those kids heard, right Lowell?

242. Cat Stevens – Tea for Tillerman (1970). Back in the day, few singer/songwriters were as good a Cat Stevens. Seriously, this dude was super-talented. Then, fame and success freaked him out, so he discovered solace in practiced Islam. At the height of his career, Cat converted to Islam, became Yusef Islam and, unfortunately for us, withdrew from his music. Fortunately, a small revival of his music in the past two decades in film soundtracks and an induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame drew him back to the public eye, without much of the intensity of his early years. This is his finest and most consistent album in a very fine catalog of music. His greatest hits package is a must-own album for anyone rock fan.

241. Tom Petty – Highway Companion (2006). Tom spent the late-90s getting a divorce from his first wife Jane; fighting a heroin addiction; losing his bassist to heroin; releasing a soundtrack, a box set of hits, B-sides, demos and shelved songs and a double-CD anthology, a veiled divorce album that was very good but could have been great; and, finally, in the early-2000s, released his “pissed off uncle” album ranting about the current state of radio when compared to the good old days that simply left fans scratching their collective heads. Then, quietly, he came back with his best album since Wildflowers. I cannot emphasize just how good this album is, even though it is without the Heartbreakers as a complete band.

240. Arcade Fire – Funeral (2004). Back in 2004, I thought Arcade Fire was going to bring back the glory days of the anthemic bands blasting stadium crowds away, as if they were catching the torch being passed to them by Springsteen and U2. This album is glorious in that manner. Turns out they were more a Bowie-wannabe chameleon act. But, that’s cool in its own way. Yet, this album remains their most consistent mission statement.

239. Leon Bridges – Come Home (2015). Ever find yourself craving an Otis Redding-inspired vocalist? Look no further than Leon Bridges on Coming Home because it will completely satisfy your hankering. This album is fantastic at both looking back and forward through Southern-fried soul of the Stax era.

238. Bruce Springsteen – The Rising (2002). When confronting a death or a tragedy, healing is the last step in which to get back to a normal functioning life. So, why shouldn’t the one of the voices of the rock world who could speak across generational lines be the one to initiate the healing process of a major tragedy like 9/11 was. In steps New Jersey’s favorite son Bruce Springsteen to help a nation to begin to heal with this album that full of stories of redemption, the redemption of the families who lost loved ones, the redemption of a nation in mourning, and the redemption of a man reuniting with the greatest backup band in rock history, the E Street Band.

237. Norah Jones – Come Away with Me (2002). Every so often a new artist comes along and taps into the zeitgeist of the music-loving community. In 2002, that new artist was Norah Jones with her tales of love and love lost set to music that reminded older listeners of Carole King and Joni Mitchell, all the while the youngsters were connecting their lines back to Jewell. No matter which way you went, Norah Jones provided us solace during a time of turmoil.

236. Peter Gabriel – So (1986). I had become a Peter Gabriel disciple when I discovered his solo albums back during high school. So, imagine my delight when he released such a soulful song full of double entendres in the form of “Sledgehammer.” Plus, the album was NOT a one-hit and a bunch of filler album. Au contraire, So was full of music that never once compromised Gabriel’s integrity yet captured the ears of the rock aficionados everywhere. This was the album that both the artist and the public deserved.

235. Joy Division – Closer (1980). Joy Division never really got to cash in on the potential success of this, their last album. That’s because lead singer Ian Curtis committed suicide on the eve of the album’s release and their debut tour of the USA. Over time, the album sold as the band’s reputation grew. Unfortunately, they were never a band of their time.

234. Stevie Wonder – Talking Book (1972). We are back in those magical years when Stevie Wonder could do nothing wrong. This album represents just the beginning of those wonder years.

233. R.E.M. – Reckoning (1984). With little fanfare, R.E.M. dropped their sophomore album on an unsuspecting crowd. Once again, word-of-mouth praise began to spread about Reckoning and the band that created it that the boys from Athens, Georgia, found themselves performing on David Letterman’s Late Night show, albeit behind white screens. This album was no Murmur part 2, but an album in which the vocals were up in the mix a little more and the lyrics slightly more intelligible. Yet, these guys were proving they were becoming a force with which to be reckoned.

232. Beastie Boys – Licensed to Ill (1986). Back in the 80s, it made perfect sense that punk rockers would love hip hop, because members of the two tribes had a mutual admiration club going. When Rick Rubin discovered three Jewish white boys who could rap with the best, he made the brilliant decision to take the Run-DMC sound to its fruition by totally marrying hip hop with not just hard rock and metal beats but the instrumentation as well. And, arguably, the greatest hip hop/punk/metal album was born. Unfortunately, the album also spawned the yucky sounds of the late-90s Nu Metal scene which totally forgot to bring the roll along with the rock of the sound.

231. The Police – Zenyatta Mondatta (1980). This was the album that broke The Police in the States. And, no, my old college and high school friends, The Police were not punk. They took the speed of punk’s playing, married it to a modified reggae beat, some prog-rock/post punk guitar and funky jazz basslines for their sound which was way different than the status quo at the time. Additionally, Sting’s lyrics were nearly poetic yet definitely literary. The Police were so much more than rock music.

230. David Bowie – Blackstar (2016). Bowie never told us that he was dying. He was too busy making this album his farewell statement. And, oh my God, what a statement of strength during a time of total weakness was simply breathtaking. Of course, Bowie died just as the album was being released, but he left us with something that will take future musicians 20 years to decipher completely and integrate into their sounds. Was it jazz? No. Rock? No. It was simply David Bowie in the 21st century. Then, rock’s most creative voice was silenced.

229. Beyoncé – Beyoncé (2013). These days it is so difficult for any major artist to quietly drop a joint on an unsuspecting audience. Yet, somehow, Queen Bey did it with an album chronicling her famous husband Jay-Z’s extramarital affair. This album proved once and for all who the toughest female on the planet was, Beyoncé. Moral of the story? You don’t cross Taylor Swift, abuse Tina Turner, and you sure as hell don’t cheat on Beyoncé!

228. Linkin Park – Hybrid Theory (2000). Does Linkin Park qualify as Nu Metal? I never really thought so because while they lyrics contained touches of Nu Metal nihilism, their music actually had some groove to it. Regardless of the outcome of that debate, Linkin Park’s debut album is a keeper.

227. Paul Weller – Stanley Road (1994). Perhaps rock’s most consistently great artist, all the while remaining its most underappreciated artist, Paul Weller assumed the mantle of the Modfather with this album showing the world just who had the most direct influence on some new UK sound called Britpop. No Weller, and his former bands The Jam and The Style Council, we would have never experienced The Smiths, Stone Roses and, of course, Britpop.

226. Prince & the New Power Generation – (The Love Symbol Album) (1992). While this album stands as his last big impact on the commercial charts, he was still evolving faster than his audience could possibly keep up. This album is pure funk (“Sexy MF”) interspersed with some fine pure pop (“7”) that showed that Prince still had his finger on the pulse of 90s music.

225. Beastie Boys – Hello Nasty (1998). Just when we think we have the Beasties all figured out, they drop an album that is completely out of left field. Once again, they drop the instruments again and pump up the forgotten turntable scratches. This album actually peaked with the hit “Intergalactic.”

224. Various Artists – Singles [The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] (1992). How did Cameron Crowe do it? He noticed that Seattle, the home of his then-wife and Heart guitarist Nancy Wilson, was going to have such a cultural impact through its music scene. He wrote a coming-of-age love story screenplay, cast some up-and-coming Gen X actors and got music from nearly all of the great grunge bands of the era. The whole package is a time capsule, especially the fantastic alternative rock soundtrack with the likes of future hitmakers like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and Smashing Pumpkins.

223. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin (1969). To the public, this album is a touchstone, as if music totally changed to serious musicianship and heavier music with fantasy lyrics all based in the blues. To critics, they were all crying that Jimmy Page simply ripped off the Jeff Beck Group. When you compare this album with the JBG’s first two which came out first, the similarities are undeniable. But, for my money, Zep swings a bit more. Plus, its a little disorienting hearing Rod Stewart singing over heavy blues sounds.

222. Chic – C’est Chic (1978). I think the whole idea of Roxy Music being the source of influence on Chic got lost simply because people hated disco. But Chic was so much more than disco as displayed on this album. They are funk, jazz, rock and more all decorated in a disco setting. They were African-Americans who were aspiring to bigger things in a white world. They were simply ahead of their time while being of their time. Sophisticated, witty and just plain excellent is the way to describe this album.

221. Madonna – Madonna (1983). To people my age, there was before Madonna and after Madonna. Before Madonna, disco sucked in the public’s imagination. After Madonna, disco was still a dirty word for another decade or so, but her version was dressed up with rock, Motown, and the ever-80s sound of synthesizers. Suddenly, punks and rockers were being found on the dancefloor because of this album and its hits. “Borderline” will always have a special place in my heart.

220. Daryl Hall & John Oates – Daryl Hall & John Oates (1975). After three albums with Atlantic, that label did not know what to do with this duo that was equal parts folk, rock and soul. But, when “The Silver Album,” as this album is known to Hall & Oates fans, arrived, it was obvious that RCA turned them loose and allowed the duo to follow their impeccable instincts. Of course, the highlight is “Sara Smile,” written for Daryl’s then-longtime love interest Sara Allen.

219. Chicago – Chicago Transit Authority (1969). So what do you do when you are enrolled in DePaul University’s School of Music but want to make a mark in rock music? Well, find the best musicians in the school and form a band. Oh, and you hire an unschooled musical prodigy on guitar who just happened to have a voice similar to Ray Charles and begin to finish the jazz/rock fusion began by Blood, Sweat and Tears. And, the legend of Chicago, the band, was born. In the early days, before drugs and the death of guitarist Terry Kath started the band down the ballad road, they were one of the hottest bands in the American rock underground. They were so good that supposedly none other than Jimi Hendrix said they were his favorite band and Kath was the best guitarist on the planet. This double album shows the band’s vision was nearly fully developed.

218. Van Morrison – It’s Too Late to Stop Now (1974). From what I understand, seeing Van Morrison perform live was a shaky proposition as you never knew which personality of the mercurial singer you would see. Either he was transcendent or he was horrible, with the middle rarely visited. But, if you take what you hear on this album as his normal, you would think that Morrison was a nightly god onstage. He does the hits with a passion matched only by Springsteen.

217. The Zombies – Odessey & Oracle (1968). Sometimes, record companies need to get out of their own way. Initially, this soon-to-become Zombie classic was held up because of some corporate idiot. Then, when it was finally released, the band had dissolved. Now, alternative pop artists view this album as a modern pop classic, often citing it next to The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. It’s THAT good.

216. Daryl Hall & John Oates – Big Bam Boom (1984). Rock’s most successful duo proved their 80s revival was still no fluke with Big Bam Boom. Sure, cracks were beginning to show a bit in the rushed songwriting for this album, but they continued to absorb their NYC surroundings, absorbing sounds and implementing them into their music. In this case, the duo and crack touring band led by the incomparable bassist Tom “T-Bone” Wolk and guitarist G.E. Smith (later of SNL Band fame), added hip hop textures and beats of the day to their patented rock ‘n’ soul sound to great effect. Unfortunately, the toll of success caused the whole band of brothers to retreat and go in their separate ways.

215. Simon & Garfunkel – Bookends (1968). As I have stated earlier, it took me a long time to begin to fully appreciate Paul Simon’s solo output as well as the stuff he did with Art Garfunkel. But, I now get it. And, this album to me is the beginning of Simon’s impeccable string of terrific albums.

214. Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dreams (1993). To many, this album represents peak Pumpkins since the band was still in BAND-mode and not a vehicle for leader Billy Corgan’s ego. The sound fluctuates between dreamy and grungy, showing a love for the guitar work of Styx and Boston while taking it all down a post punk highway. There is just some terrific material on this album and makes one helluva mission statement for the band.

213. Run-DMC – Raising Hell (1986). This is THE album that broke hip hop into white suburbia, all the while reviving Aerosmith’s drug-riddled career for a second shot at stardom on the highly influential cover of “Walk This Way.” But, c’mon, we all loved “My Adidas” and “It’s Tricky” even more. I cannot stress the importance of this album on rock history and the trajectory that music has taken ever since.

212. Eric B. & Rakim – Paid in Full (1987). While this hip hop duo did not reach the commercial crossover appeal experienced by Run-DMC, they proved to be more artistically influential in the long run. I believe history will show that if Rakim is not the genre’s greatest MC, then he is definitely its finest lyricist. His influence has been felt through the likes of A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, Jay-Z and Eminem. In other words, pretty much all of post-Rakim rap royalty.

211. Steely Dan – Can’t Buy a Thrill (1972). If this band were new today, the industry would not know what to do with them. And this was the band’s debut album! All I need to say is the guitar in “Reelin’ in the Years.” Case closed. Next!

210. Cyndi Lauper – She’s So Unusual (1983). Back in college in 1983 and 1984, if this album wasn’t played at a party, someone would have demanded it to be played. We honestly had real arguments while listening to albums as to who would have the bigger career, Madonna or Cyndi? Ponder that one for a moment. We didn’t know how the future played out, but the consensus was the Lauper was going to become HUGE. She had the better voice, better songwriting and better backing band. Plus, she truly seemed like a genuinely good person beneath the skirts made of shredded newspapers and Goodwill clothing. Still, I love her and the influence of the strong woman portrayed on this album will live on.

209. Aretha Franklin – I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You (1967). Columbia had no idea what to do with a vocal prodigy named Aretha Franklin. So, she signed with Atlantic who teamed her with a group of Southern white boys who were musical geniuses that brought out the Queen of Soul. Here is the beginning of Aretha and Muscle Shoals studio band inventing the southern-fried soul sound that has become synonymous with Franklin, Otis Redding and other stars of the era.

208. Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath (1970). I was six or seven when the debut album of these purveyors of heavy music was released. My first encounter with the album was at the babysitter’s house. Her middle school-aged smart ass boys locked me in a dark closet and played the intro to “Black Sabbath.” It scared the living shit out of me, while at the same timing thrilling me. Those a-holes laughed. I can just imagine some high peaceniks playing this for the first time and reacting as I did. That vision of the dark closet makes me laugh now. I’d like to thank my long-time friend Walter Ring for getting me into Sabbath fully back in middle school.

207. The Time – What Time Is It? (1982). By 1982, Prince was ready to record music of all kinds. So, besides recording his classic 1999, he wrote, played and arranged albums by two groups under the pseudonym Jamie Starr. One group was his attempt at a 80s version of The Supremes dubbed Vanity 6, with his then-flame Vanity as the front of this all-female singing trio. The other was his Frankenstein monster in which he did his work as Jamie Starr again but put his boyhood friend Morris Day in front as the lead vocalist. After recording two albums, Day put together one of the hottest funk/pop/rock bands ever. This was The Time, and they got so good that they were on the verge of upstaging their creator on tour. So, Prince went out of his way to get in the way of this band from developing into the commercial force they seemed destined to become. This album was peak Time.

206. Tears for Fears – Songs from the Big Chair (1985). Talk about a out of left field hit! Tears for Fears became stars with this album, their second. It is stuffed full of hits and should have been hits that you’d think you were listening to a greatest hits album. I was never so happy that a band got back together as I was this year when these guys released new material. But, they were at the top of their game on this album behind the singles of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” “Shout” and “Head Over Heels.”

205. Sheryl Crow – Sheryl Crow (1996). On Sheryl’s second album, she got a little more grungy in her terrific songs. But anything that contains a song that Prince would cover on an album, “Every Day Is a Winding Road,” in addition to “If It Makes You Happy,” you must have one hell of an album.

204. John Cougar Mellencamp – Scarecrow (1985). Hoosiers tend to back their own. If you lived in the state from any amount of time, we tend to back your career. So, when Mellencamp (he HATES “Cougar”) first began making inroads on the rock scene and charts, we were there in droves to back him up and buy his records. Then his songs began to reflect our lives, we fell further in love with the “Little Bastard.” Finally, he became an American treasure with this album and his subsequent work for farmers via Farm Aid. After Uh-Huh, he upped the ante on this one behind the abundance of hits like “Lonely Old Night,” “Small Town,” “Rumble Seat” and “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.” Man, those were the days.

203. Boston – Boston (1976). Hands down, one of the greatest debut albums ever. It’s right up there with The Cars and Appetite for Destruction in my book. This album, along with Queen’s A Day at the Races, was the soundtrack for my 8th grade year. “More Than a Feeling” was the hit, but “Foreplay/Long Time” was our party anthem.

202. Raspberries – Raspberries (1972). Here is the beginning of the American power pop formula. The album would be a classic if it only contained “Go All the Way.”

201. Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska (1982). The story goes that Springsteen was listening to Woody Guthrie quiet a bit and that began to influence his own songwriting. Initially, he put these songs on tape acoustically, called his band and began the recording process. Then, in a stroke of brilliance, The Boss and his manager/producer Jon Landau both felt the band was diluting the power of the demo versions of this collection of songs. So, they bagged the recording sessions, and put out the demos, after a little cleaning, for the public. They made the right decision because the stark instrumentation only enhanced the power of the lyrics. And, this whole project flew in the face of music being over-produced in the 80s. The album was still a hit! It just so happens that Nebraska only set the stage for what was to be dropped on us in a couple of years.

My 500 Favorite Albums of All Time, Day 5 – #251-300

Greetings and salutations! I am back for Day #5 of the countdown. Today’s music will run the gamut of my musical tastes, with the mid-70s through the 80s dominating the countdown.

For me, the past couple of weeks has been jam packed with concerts and another grandchild’s birthday. And those relatively brief moments of fun are followed with the usual two or three days of recuperation. But, when you are married to a teacher, the summers are always busy.

Outside of the craziness and chaos caused by a surprise January 6th committee hearing, the actions of a highly politicized and activist Supreme Court and continued trend toward more mass shootings, I have found the summer to be unusually quiet. My sinking suspicion is that artists are currently focused on touring as opposed to releasing new music. Since touring is the biggest way for many of these people to make quick money, I cannot say that I don’t blame them.

So far, I find just ten albums that have been released in 2022 that I enjoy. Those artists are, in alphabetical order, Arcade Fire, Charli XCX, Elvis Costello & the Imposters, Harry Styles, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, John Mellencamp, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tears for Fears, The Black Keys and The Regrettes. Of course, there’s the brilliant box set of Prince & the Revolution’s 1985 concert in Syracuse, New York, along with his Record Store Day re-release of 1995’s The Gold Experience, but those really do not count as new releases, although I am count the live Prince album by the year’s end. Here’s to hoping that the second half of the year picks up!

Let’s do the countdown thing!

300. Raspberries – Fresh (1972). After Badfinger married the early Beatles pop side with the rock of the early Who, more purveyors of this power pop sound began to spring to life. Cleveland’s Raspberries were one of the more successful of those bands. Their second album continued to build upon the muscular pop of their debut.

299. Sly & the Family Stone – There’s a Riot Goin’ On (1971). Forty years down the road now, 1971 appears to be a seminal year in music. It seemed as though the culture was reflected in the music of the day. So, it should not be too surprising that Woodstock sensation Sly & the Family Stone would hit their commercial and creative peak that year with the very political There’s a Riot Goin’ On. Unfortunately, the horrors of black America described here in 1971 have changed little in the intervening decades.

298. Marshall Crenshaw – Field Day (1983). Between 1978 and 1983, a second wave of power pop was threatening to take over radio. But, we know how the Boomers viewed this music as bubblegum music, so they put an end to it. Still, Crenshaw’s sophomore album made a major impact behind his fantastic single “Whenever You’re on My Mind.”

297. Raphael Saadiq – The Way I See It (2008). Ever since the Nineties, there has been something of a neo-soul scene building. The sound finally came to a head with the release of the former creative mind behind Tony! Toni! Tone! and Prince bassist this Raphael Saadiq album that embraced the sweet sounds of the 70s Philly sound mixed in with a little Detroit-based Motown. It was a wonderful update of the sounds that was welcomed by old Gen X-ers and Millennials alike.

296. En Vogue – Funky Divas (1992). It seems like the area does not matter, because the formula has been successful throughout the rock era. Take three to five beautiful women with wonderful voices that compliment each other and give them a hip group name and access to some of the best writers in the industry. Then you crank out the hits until everyone gets a big ego and puts an end to the gravy train. In the early 90s, it was En Vogue who capture record buyers with their brilliant records and model-esque looks.

295. My Morning Jacket – It Still Moves (2003). Prior to MMJ finding their trademark amalgamation of rock, country, R&B, blues, Prince, and Phish-like jamband, this Louisville band was just another new Southern rock-influenced band. When the boys hit upon their sound, I hoped they just might develop into a 21st century version of The Band. Instead, they became themselves.

294. Michael Jackson – Bad (1987). After Thriller, I think Michael could have released an album of his coughs, sneezes, belches and farts, and it would have gone platinum over ten times. Instead, thankfully, he gave us for all purposes a greatest hits album of unreleased gems. This was Michael at his peak, though it sounded just a little bit too close to Thriller for me.

293. Kate Bush – Hounds of Love (1985). Ironically, Kate Bush has been experiencing a revival of this album and its single “Running Up That Hill” lately because of the latter’s inclusion in the current season of Netflix’ big hit show Stranger Things. Once again, this only proves that great music is great music, no matter the era. Could this lead to Ms. Bush finally being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? Time will tell.

292. Van Halen – 1984 (1984). Unfortunately, this album may have lost a little luster over the years for its use of synthesizers. But, seriously, who cares?!?! People still dig ZZ Top’s Eliminator, and they followed the same game plan. “Jump,” “I’ll Wait,” Panama” and “Hot for Teacher” was a brilliant run of singles.

291. Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes (1983). At the time, no one realized that punk would sound fantastic played on acoustic instruments. Then Milwaukee’s Violent Femmes proved it. This is a perfect album for the whole teenage boy experience and their hormone-driven confused thinking.

290. Joe Jackson – Night and Day (1982). When Joe Jackson burst onto the scene in the late-70s, he was another angry-voiced punk-inspired power poppish British singer/songwriter in the vein of Elvis Costello and Graham Parker. Then, around the same time Elvis took a left turn into sophisticated pop, Jackson moved to NYC and allowed the jazz scene there to influence his songwriting. That resulted in his most commercially successful album, Night and Day, behind the excellent hit song “Steppin’ Out.”

289. The Who – Quadrophenia (1973). Whether Pete Townshend knew it at the time or not, his second foray, and for my money his best, into the rock opera world paved the way for The Jam. It may have been Pete’s look back at his lost youth as a mod, but Paul Weller picked up the ball and ran. Truthfully, this is my go-to Who record.

288. Joni Mitchell – Blue (1971). This is THE Joni Mitchell album to own. She may go down in history as a fantastic lyricist, but her guitar playing is utterly tasteful and complex. I love the album, but I still give the female singer/songwriter award to Carole King.

287. Tom Petty – Full Moon Fever (1989). Since the dawn of the Eighties, it seems as if Tom has been the soundtrack of major events in my life. In 1989, I bought this album on the very day my younger son was born. Yes, the hits are all excellent, yet a little overplayed. But, the album is made by the greatness of its deep cuts. My favorites are “Love Is a Long Road,” “The Apartment Song,” and my lullaby for my younger son “Alright for Now.”

286. The Velvet Crush – Teenage Symphonies to God (1994). I remember flipping through the new CD section at a Best Buy and stumbling across this album. Immediately, I recognized the Brian Wilson quote and noticed it was being stocked in the Christian Rock section there. I knew this wasn’t correct. And my intuition paid off as I discovered one of the finest albums of the third wave of power pop. This is a terrific album throughout.

285. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend (2008). It took long enough for a band to be influenced so much by Paul Simon’s Graceland. Thank God someone was! Vampire Weekend has enough of that album mixed with touches of debut album-era Talking Heads to make this one delicious album. One of the best debuts in the new millennium.

284. The Lemonheads – It’s a Shame About Ray (1992). By 1992, the third wave of power pop was in full swing, and The Lemonheads lead singer Evan Dando was being pimped as a grungey skater boy pinup for girls, while his band was updating the Raspberries for Generation X. Any time you have an ode to your pot dealer, you know you are in for an interesting musical ride.

283. New Order – Low-Life (1985). Maybe it was the stress of being a newlywed, or a new parent, or a student in a difficult medical technology program. Or, was it all of the above? But, in 1985, music just wasn’t all that exciting to me. Now, 1985 has some real highlights, with this New Order release being one of the stronger ones of the year.

282. Ramones – Ramones (1976). Sure, the world had all this proto-punk stuff lying around like The Stooges, MC5 and New York Dolls. But ground zero for the original punk era began right here. Gone were the long, boring solos of virtuosity, and in were short, concise songs steeped in bubblegum and the pop/rock songs of the 60s complied on the Nuggets compilation from 1972. And, Ramones were the first to put it all on wax.

281. The Beatles – A Hard Day’s Night (1964). Wanna know where power pop based its sound? Look no further than the title song of this album. Still, this soundtrack album showed that the Fab Four’s lyrics were beginning to grow from the simplicity of boy-meets-girl love songs as adult themes begin to seep in.

280. Todd Rundgren – Runt: The Ballad of Todd Rundgren (1971). Todd’s second solo album is once again hinting at the power of his prodigious talent. Hit songs and songs that should have been hits are littered throughout the album, as will become a common theme in Todd’s career. Yes, he made a name as a record producer, but the man is as talented an artist there is.

279. David Bowie – Let’s Dance (1983). I agree with album producer Nile Rodgers that Let’s Dance is a classic Bowie album. And, I might lean toward the reason being a little bit based upon race. Regardless, Bowie and Rodgers teamed to create one helluva of a dance record that transcended race and charted all over the Billboard charts. To me, this album best shows just how brilliant Bowie was since he needed a big selling album to get himself out of debt, and he delivered it seemingly effortlessly. I think this is the album Duran Duran has always wanted to make.

278. The Jam – Sound Affects (1980). By 1980, The Jam were the UK’s biggest band, yet the States weren’t taking to their odes to English life. So, Paul Weller took his two bandmates toward a more R&B-influenced sound and this was their outcome, a new exciting sound that updated the early Who sound for a new generation. Now, if the album just had their greatest single “Going Underground,” it would have been perfection.

277. Fitz & the Tantrums – Pickin’ Up the Pieces (2010). Both my wife and I were constantly on the search for a new band that was updating the tried and true rock ‘n’ soul sound of Hall & Oates. Then, we watch Daryl’s House on the web one night and discovered the band’s singers Fitz and Noelle. We’ve been big fans ever since. But, their debut long player remains their most consistent release to date.

276. Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? (1995). This album is everything that Britpop aspired to be. Solid songwriting, a British take on power pop, the influences of The Kinks, Paul Weller, The Smiths AND The Beatles everywhere you turned. Along with Pulp and Blur, Oasis was THE Britpop band of the 90s.

275. Rick James – Street Songs (1981). Before Prince got his act together, the man you went to for a funk/rock mix was Rick James. He owned that sound in the late-70s and early-80s. And this album was James’ tour de force. What can you possibly say about one album that has background vocals by The Temptations, a duet with Tina Marie AND both “Superfreak” and “Give It to Me Baby”? You say it’s a classic, that’s what!

274. INXS – Kick (1987). Next to AC/DC, INXS was the biggest Australian musical export. Yet, they have just stumbled upon their brand of Stones rock and funk mix on 1986’s single “What You Need.” Upon the consolidation of their sound of that single as the band’s starting point, the quintet dove headfirst into the recording of Kick and created a masterpiece that transcended genres.

273. Otis Redding – Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul (1965). Otis Redding was on his way to becoming a legend when he released this album with a title that must have been rewritten by Mr. Obvious. No crap! Otis Redding IS soul! This album put the exclamation on that sentence.

272. Blondie – Parallel Lines (1978). It’s funny now, but back when CBGBs was becoming a punk rock icon, Blondie was considered to be the weakest of all the bands that called the place home. Yet, when the dust settled, it was Blondie who became pop stars, had the big hits, maintained their integrity AND had the sex symbol of NYC cool in Debbie Harry. This album is the band’s masterpiece as they flex their muscles across NYC chic girl group cool, power pop, punk and even out-discoed all of the disco artists of the day on their eternal “Heart of Glass.”

271. Prince & the Revolution – Around the World in a Day (1985). In June 2022, the Prince Estate released a lost Prince classic live album that was supposed to come out in 1985. But, as we now know but were learning at the time was that the man was moving faster musically than the industry could keep up. So Live was shelved until last month and this psychedelic pop experiment was released instead. Basically, he showed that he could take The Beatles to Minneapolis, dip them in Easter egg paints and create a whole new aural sound. In all honesty, this album was Prince at his most laser-focused.

270. Eurythmics – Touch (1983). On the duo’s second release of 1983, Eurythmics topped Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) by relying less and less on the synthesizers that made them superstars and began their movement toward a more traditional use of instruments to create their patented moody sound. Plus, Touch was the album in which we learned that Annie Lennox possessed one of the most soulful and powerful voices of the Eighties, bar none.

269. Sheryl Crow – Tuesday Night Music Club (1993). When Sheryl Crow burst onto the radio, she was elbowing her way through a crowd of grunge rockers, New Jack singers, alternative nerds, gangsta rappers and Garth Brooks. But, she did so because she had well-written Americana-influenced pop/rock gems that were played by a group of some of the best musicians the world had to offer. And, the whole project came together organically.

268. Bob Dylan – Modern Times (2006). Just when I was ready to send Dylan out to pasture to stud, he releases this album to prove that he may be pushing 80, but he is still a creative force of nature. In retrospect, if you couple this album with 1997’s Time Out of Mind and 2001’s unfortunately timed Love & Theft (released on 9/11) started a new creative streak for the bard of Minnesota.

267. Jenny Lewis – The Voyager (2014). Back in the day, some critic online wrote an article about artists who released better Tom Petty-sounding albums than Tom’s Hypnotic Eye. While I didn’t agree with the author, I understood why he was pimping these albums, one of which was this album by Jenny Lewis. No, Lewis is NOT a new Tom Petty. Nope. She’s a new Jenny Lewis. Ms. Lewis gave up acting to pursue her music career, and The Voyager is the pay-off. Welcome to the big leagues, Jenny, because you made a classic.

266. Grateful Dead – Workingman’s Dead (1970). Basically, The Dead have lived off their two classic 1970 albums, this one and American Beauty. Somehow, the boys streamlined their sound and the jamming tendencies on this album and stuck to the plan of concise countrified rock songs. These Dead albums, along with the Flying Burrito Brothers, opened the door for the Eagles and Linda Ronstadt to fly through.

265. U2 – Zooropa (1993). At the time, U2 was riding high on the successful experiments of Achtung Baby and the success of their pop trash Zoo TV Tour, all of which solidified them as the newest stadium rockers. The band, in typical fashion, dove further down the irony-laced rabbit hole and created this legendary album. Back in the day, U2 were shellacked for this album. But, in retrospect, this album was taking the experiments of Achtung to its logical completion. Plus, we can thank U2 for reviving Johnny Cash’s career and reputation, because he went on a creative tear during his last decade of life.

264. Brian Eno & David Byrne – My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1981). If you ever wonder just who invented the idea of sampling, look no further than this collaboration between two masters of sound manipulations, Brian Eno and David Byrne. However, instead of sampling snippets of famous recordings, the duo traveled the world recording indigenous music, sermons and prayers and set the whole thing to similar African beat sounds found on Talking Heads’ Remain in Light. Today, we might consider this a little like cultural appropriation, but I still am mesmerized by what the pair did. Good luck in finding a version of the album that originally contained a Quran reading; THAT was questionable back then. But when faced with a potential backlash, the duo quickly removed the offending song and replaced it with another. So, I guess kudos to them?

263. Sting – The Dream of the Blue Turtle (1985). Sting, Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers were all part of a little band called The Police. But, the three, despite the creative output, were a volatile lot. So, Sting hired a band of young jazz hotshots and recorded some of his best songs to date with them. While the creative tension of the trio was gone, and a slick professionalism was in its place. A great album for late at night relaxation.

262. Alice Cooper – Billion Dollar Babies (1973). Here is the first album I ever bought. Boy, did I ever have an ear for music. This was Marilyn Manson for the young Gen X generation. “No More Mister Nice Guy” got me in, but “Elected,” etc. kept me listening.

261. King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King (1969). If I may speak honestly, back in my teen years, I did not have the patience for much progressive rock music. Whether it was the Celtic folk/rock marriage of Jethro Tull, rock/English folk of original Genesis, classical music/rock combo of ELP or Yes, it all just meandered too much for me. I’ve always been a “don’t bore us, get to the chorus” (thanks Mike Campbell!) kind of guy. But, when the prog rock was foreboding and dark, I liked it. So, King Crimson was right up my alley.

260. Talking Heads – Talking Heads: 77 (1977). Here we go! Talking Heads officially rear their, uh, heads! Yep! I was hooked in 1979 by “Life During Wartime” and Fear of Music. Immediately, I went back in their catalog and discovered this nervous and disjointed take on bubblegum gem, realizing I had found my people.

259. Madonna – Like a Prayer (1989). When the Eighties were ending, Madonna was the biggest female star on the planet, even rivaling Michael and Prince for the throne of the kingdom. So, as she always did, Madonna was going to challenge the status quo while taking money from Pepsi. With that came the controversial commercial which aired once and set off a firestorm with its burning crosses and portrayal of a black Jesus, just like in her video for the song. Oh, controversy aside, Madonna created arguably her most musically accomplished album of her career. She sure knew how to piss off the establishment back then. I just wish she’d leave those shenanigans to the younger artists. When we old farts do it, we look sad and desperate.

258. Kiss – Destroyer (1976). When I think of the bicentennial year of 1976, I musically think of this All-American album. I played the hell out of it. Destroyer became the first album that I had to replace after playing it so much. Is that a big enough compliment?

257. Queen – Sheer Heart Attack (1974). “Killer Queen” was the hit off this album, but I discovered rather quickly that this album was a solid affair. “Now I’m Here” has become my favorite song on the album. You can definitely hear the early rumblings of A Night at the Opera/A Day at the Races on this album.

256. The Smiths – The Smiths (1984). In my mind, R.E.M. landed the first blow for alternative music with Murmur in 1983. Then, The Smiths followed it with their left-hook of punch with their debut album the following year. And the alternative rock/college rock/modern rock onslaught was on for the next six years.

255. Pulp – Different Class (1995). When I think of Britpop, I think of Oasis. When I think of the heirs to the Stone Roses’ kingdom of British-oriented pop/rock, that crown goes to Pulp. This album describes the class divide so well in Great Britain. Unfortunately, I think this album might now hit Gen Z hard between the eyes with the direction the USA is moving now.

254. Material Issue – International Pop Overthrow (1991). This Chicago trio threw the whole third wave of power pop into high gear as they ascended to the region’s royalty status alongside Cheap Trick and Off Broadway. They breathed new life in the genre, making sit nicely between the grunge and alternative rock of the day. Do not underestimate just how good this band was.

253. Billy Squier – Don’t Say No (1981). Mr. Squier was a member of a great lost power pop band called Piper. When the band broke up, Squier toughened up his sound but did not lose the pop melodies and concocted an AOR album for the ages. Screw Loverboy, REO, and the rest of the AOR artists of the era, THIS is the album to own.

252. Elvis Presley – Elvis Presley (1957). What can I say? Elvis’ debut is the beginning of modern rock & roll. My apologies to Chuck Berry and Little Richard. You guys may have invented it, but Elvis took it to the masses (sorry once again, uh, white people).

251. Etta James – At Last (1960). There is no denying just how magnificent this album is. It is always on the best-selling blues albums chart. It is simply impeccable.