I survived another great weekend! On Thursday, my brother flew in from out of town because we had finally gotten permission to go through our beloved uncle from the maternal side of our family tree even though its been a quarter century since his passing. Our aunt, bless her heart, just never could find the strength to let us go through his library in order to find things we might want. Leading up to out day to do this adventure, my aunt had put up our uncle’s collection of artifacts he collected from the Civil War, much to the chagrin of my brother. Yet, our uncle’s directive was NOT for us to inherit but to finance our aunt’s travels she made after his death.
Personally, I understood it. Maybe up until five years ago, I too would have been very concerned about inheriting some of those valuable items. But, I no longer interested in those things. Personally, I wanted to find his writing, be it his history teaching notes, personal correspondences, journals and the entries and, perhaps of most importance to me, his creative writings, which I know he did. I did find some writing but not the journals nor the creative endeavors.
While my brother, the retired military veteran, did find some nice pieces and books to keep for his collection, including our uncle’s dog tags, I walked away with our grandmother’s first edition hardback of Gone with the Wind and my grandfather’s elementary school reading book with a copyright date of 1909. Both of those items have some emotional ties to me. Plus, our aunt gave me their album collection, most of which would have value to collectors of Civil War songs compilations and recordings of various historical figures’ speeches. However, I do have a special place in my heart, as well as my collection, for Christmas albums. Therefore, I am keeping a small number of those. Needless to say, it was a very productive trip to see our aunt and take her to lunch. On the downside, it was an emotional day for my brother, who tends to be the more emotional of the two of us.
Yesterday, he went through most of the last of his stuff from Mom’s house that I had kept for him to peruse whenever he came back. So, he has greatly reduced his footprint in our home. When he and his wife return next time, he will finish that job. After that, my boys, their families and our dad and stepmom came over for dinner. Our house was loud, obnoxious and just plain fun as the grandkids had a great time playing in the house, followed by dinner and a dessert, all of which led to those rascals eating cookies and needing to burn off their energy outside for 30 minutes before going home. All in all, the non-parents loved watching the littles playing. Plus, Grandchild #3 (GC3) debuted his newest trick for the whole family: walking. Of course, that milestone was thoroughly enjoyed.
So, today, I come to you extremely tire and very sore. Still, I will soldier onward to bring to you the first ten of my favorite albums of my Top 50. Peace!
50. Hüsker Dü – New Day Rising (1985). Next to Paul Weller, Bob Mould is rock’s most underappreciated visionary. And like Weller, Mould’s career has three phases: American hardcore leaders Hüsker Dü (They were the forerunners of Pixies and both influenced Nirvana’s sound), alternative power pop trio Sugar and as a stellar solo artist. But, it was as a leader/singer/songwriter/lead guitarist with Hüsker Dü in which Bob rose to prominence. In 1984, the band broke out with a double album rock opera entitled Zen Arcade. The following year, that same trio followed up a strong 1984 with a crazy 1985, during which the band released two fantastic albums, of which one was this album, in addition to a single, a cover version of The Byrds’ “Eight Miles High.” This album finds the boys in full control of their sound and made their songs drip with pop hooks underneath all of the buzzsaw guitars and feedback.
49. Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True (1978). There are all kinds of urban legends concerning this album, most of which are just untrue. The most prominent false rumor is that Huey Lewis played harmonica on this album. No, but the band in which he sang at the time, Clover, was the Costello’s first backup band on vinyl, a short time before he put together The Attractions. Still, the chemistry between Elvis and his studio musicians was obvious after a single playing of the album. I knew immediately that I had listen to one of rock’s greatest albums. My Aim Is True sounds as fresh today as it did in the winter of 1977-78 when I bought the LP.
48. The Who – Who’s Next (1971). After the success of The Who’s Tommy, guitarist/songwriter Pete Townshend wanted to create a rock monstrosity of a multimedia rock opera called Lifehouse. As the creative process drug on, Townshend began to recognize there were technologic limitations in 1970 in order to pull the whole project together. At the last minute, he concluded that he had a single album’s worth of songs that were coherent and needed to be released. That album, which was light years ahead of Tommy, was released to much hype, fanfare and commercial and critical success as any album had up to that point of the release of what is now known as Who’s Next. Many point to this album as The Who’s masterpiece. I played the hell out of this album in high school, and it probably speaks to every teenager since its release.
47. The Beatles – Revolver (1966). The music created in 1965 is generally considered to be when rock & roll morphed into rock music. Bob Dylan went electric, joining a legion of rockers by leaving the folk world behind. Additionally, R&B music was becoming more musically sophisticated as those players from Muscle Shoals, Alabama, began to dominated the black music charts. And, The Beatles first began the shift of pop/rock music from seemingly throwaway songs to a much more intricate sound on Rubber Soul, which directly led The Beach Boys to create Pet Sounds, and themselves to create Revolver. For my money, THIS is the boys from Liverpool to record the very mature sounding album, which means in short that this is my favorite Beatles album.
46. The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers (1969). As I said earlier, the Stones changed for the better when Mick Taylor replaced Brian Jones in the band. Now, The Stones were the badasses they always felt they were. This album is stuffed full of great rock songs that continue to make the lists of the greatest songs of all time. There a fistful of songs guaranteed to offend you (“Brown Sugar,” “Sister Morphine,” “Bitch,” to name a few) and just flat out classic rock songs (“Can’t You Hear Me Knocking”). At the time of this album, The Stones may actually have been the greatest rock band in the world.
45. Carole King – Tapestry (1971). By 1971, Carole King had made a huge reputation as a fantastic songwriter as one-half of the songwriting tandem Goffin and King, with then-husband Gerry Goffin. But few were ready when the woman dropped an album of new songs and new versions of some of her old hits to kick off the whole singer/songwriter era of rock music. This album allowed future female artists to create rock albums with personal lyrics. If Carole had not made this album, maybe we would have never gotten Stevie Nicks, Carly Simon, Alanis Morissette, Taylor Swift or Olivia Rodrigo, for a start. That sentence speaks for itself as the importance of this album.
44. Michael Jackson – Thriller (1982). As the biggest selling studio album of all time, Thriller remains noteworthy. Throw in the facts that this album was the first to have seven Top 10 hit songs, leaving only two songs that were never released as singles, and the videos for “Billie Jean” and “Beat It” worked with a couple of Prince videos to break down the racial barrier that seemed to have been briefly set on MTV. Yet, for an album to accomplish all of this, it has to have great music. And Thriller does, as Michael furthers his argument to become known as The King of Pop.
43. Paul Weller – Heavy Soul (1997). I know that many Weller fans throughout the world felt the man was done as a voice of a generation when The Style Council called it a day after their last album’s shelving by the record company in 1989. Then, when the 90s rolled around, he burst back onto the scene as a solo artist not afraid to indulge all of his influences from the obvious Mods of The Jam days to the soul and light jazz of his Council days while also including the influence of Traffic, all of which Paul combined into a mature and compelling sound upon which he has extended his career to this day, all the while maintaining the high songwriting standards he set upon himself with The Jam back in 1977. He is England’s best kept secret.
42. Marshall Crenshaw – Marshall Crenshaw (1982). By the time 1982 rolled around, pop radio was in the beginning stages of having their playlist influenced by a new cable channel called MTV. Of those early artists played on the budding power broker, Crenshaw blasted out from the pack with his fresh take on the guitar-based sounds of Buddy Holly. While his music might have been updating an old sound, it was his Costello-influenced lyrics which made Marshall stand out further from the crowd. This exuberant debut did not sell like it should have, but Marshall Crenshaw did bring power pop and the name of Buddy Holly kicking and screaming into the 80s just as many believed the synthesizer was taking over. Here is a perfect album of pop/rock confection.
41. Simon & Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970). This duo was made up of two guys who grew up together only to become successful adult men who could no longer creatively nor honestly stand to be together any longer. Yet, during this turmoil the second most commercially successful duo in rock history held things together long enough to knock out this terrific rock chock full of rock classics. This is a display of love for each other and their music for Garfunkel and Simon to stick together long enough to create the best batch of songs of their illustrious career.
Until next time…