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