Those people who are closest to me know that I love music. At one time I must have owned a thousand record albums and still own around 700 CDs. (Though I have ripped them all to MP3 files now and manage them via iTunes.) Many publications and people have published their greatest albums list. Why not tackle my own list?
My criteria is whether I would listen to the entire thing completely (i.e. not skipping over songs) and whether I still listen to it today. The following list is in no particular order. I just wrote them down as they came to me:
- The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Not a surprise really. Critically acclaimed, subject to many documentaries. Some of the greatest songwriters and musicians ever assembled in a single band. The Beatles were sort of a Dream Team for pop music. Everything they did was great. This album is simply the best.
- Steely Dan – Countdown To Ecstasy
Fagen and Becker turned out one great album after another. I like this this effort from their earlier years before they became jazzier on efforts like Aja. Not that jazz is bad – I just enjoy the faster pace.
- The Who – Quadrophenia
The Who are the ultimate masculine rock group. They made some other spectacular albums as well, specifically Who’s Next. However, Quadrophenia was specifically intended to be what it is; and it is awesome.
- Pete Townshend – Empty Glass
Townshend, the genius behind The Who, was so good that I have to rank his solo work separately. I also really liked White City and Psychoderelict quite a bit but Empty Glass is just madly good.
- Carole King – Tapestry
This is the first recording I ever bought. There’s a good reason that it was the greatest selling album of all time for many years.
- Willie Nelson – Red Headed Stranger
I’m not a country music fan at all but I absolutely love this record. Willie’s stripped-down arrangements and emotional truth are haunting.
- Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon
This was one of those first records that I bought as a teen. It wasn’t until much later that I learned that they had recorded a bunch of albums before which were entirely different. Dark Side started something great that continued for a number of albums.
- Cowboy Junkies – Lay It Down
I absolutely love this band. The singing of Margo is amazing and the songs by Michael are true poetry. Their work from the late 80’s through the end of the 90’s is my favorite era.
- R.E.M. – Fables of the Reconstruction
Another band where I’ve loved just about everything they ever did. Since, by my rules for this blog, I have to pick a single album, this is it. Relatively early in their recording career, it represents the rich oddity of their wonderful music.
- Fleetwod Mac – Rumours
There’s this fantastic documentary series that was done by VH1 called Classic Albums. It’s available via NetFlix as well as other streaming platforms. I already loved this album. After watching the documentary, that love doubled. The incredible anguish that the band members experienced while making this record make it even more amazing.
- Grateful Dead – American Beauty
I’ve seen 30-40 Dead shows. (I don’t know the exact count – knowing that number just feels contrary to the point of the Grateful Dead experience.) The live show is entirely different from the studio recordings. This record is their best studio production and their most well-known for that reason.
- David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars
Bowie was an amazing artist. This record, besides Low, is the one I always wind up coming back to. Pure genius on display.
- Joni Mitchell – Court and Spark
Joni writes amazing songs but they aren’t always “accessible” to the average listener. This record has the most hits probably because she straddles folk, rock and jazz with effortless grace. There is a concert video called Shadows and Light which has some of the music from Court and Spark. I’ve watched that countless times as well.
- Alan Parsons Project – I Robot
The Alan Parsons Project is an interesting concept. Not really a band. Just a core group of producer/songwriter/musician Alan Parsons, songwriter/pianist Eric Woolfson and some studio musicians. Yet they created some really good records. I Robot was my favorite and I played that thing to death.
- Simply Red – Picture Book
Simply Red is mostly just Mick Hucknall singing the songs that he wrote with a backing band. But what great songs and what a voice! Picture Book was the debut release and is fantastic.
- X – More Fun in the New World
X does not get the due that they deserve. Second only the the Beatles, the Doors is my favorite band. Who produced the early X records? Ray Manzarek of the Doors. That should say something into itself. More Fun is an evolution of their early punk sound. Not entirely commercial. But totally great.