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.

Author: ifmyalbumscouldtalk

I am just a long-time music fan who used to be a high school science teacher and a varsity coach of several high school athletic teams. Before that, I worked as a medical technologist at three hospitals in their labs, mainly as a microbiologist. I am retired/disabled (Failed Back Surgery Syndrome), and this is my attempt to remain a human. Additionally, I am a serious vinyl aficionado, with a CD addiction and a love of reading about rock history. Finally, I am a fan of Prince, Cheap Trick, Tom Petty, R.E.M., Hall & Oates, Springsteen, Paul Weller & his bands and Power Pop music.

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