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25 Greatest Albums Ever – Of All Time! Redux

in May of 2008 I created the first version of the 25 Greatest and really enjoyed doing it.  Sure, it’s a bit off the beaten path of what you normally find at this site, but many people found it interesting so I’m back with 25 more.  As before, feel free to comment on your favorites.  I’m always looking for something unique, new and different, so your contributions are welcome.

The original 25 seemed to share a theme of great musicians who died before their time.  This set features singers who would not make it to Hollywood on American Idol, yet made great rock anyway.

So now I present to you, in no particular order, 25 more Greatest Albums Ever – Of All Time!

CTA 1. Chicago Transit Authority – 1969 – Later renamed Chicago, they combined brass, jazz and rock to create their trademark sound.  In 1978, one of the founding members, Terry Kath, found out the hard way that mixing cocaine and marijuana while playing Russian roulette was a lethal mixture.  Peter Cetera then became the lead singer and made Chicago infamous for mushy love songs.

pearljam 2. Pearl Jam, 10 – 1991 – One day in 1992 I came home from work to the Wrigleyville apartment I shared with one of my oldest friends.  My roommate Gary sat me on the couch in front of the stereo and said, “You gotta hear this!”  Gary is not an emotional person so I knew something was up.  He played the song Alive and the opening riff reverberated through the apartment.  I was hooked.  I had never heard music like this.  It was new and fresh and not 80’s pop/sync music.  No synthesizers, just stripped down, angst ridden rock.  They went on, along with Nirvana, to become the poster boys for the grunge movement.

BruceSpringsteenBorntoRun 3. Bruce Springsteen, Born To Run – 1975 – Imagine what would happen if you combined Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and added some sax to the mix.  Springsteen’s brilliant lyrics about blue collar people trying to find love amid anger and frustration, hit home, though I was neither blue collar nor frustrated.  It was the song Thunder Road that got me.  That and the girl that sat next to me in high school Rhetoric class.  I fantasized about her while playing the lyrics in my head.  Inevitably the teacher would always call on me to answer a question, but all I could say was, “The screen door slams.  Mary’s dress waves…”

Men_at_Work_-_Business_as_Usual 4. Men at Work, Business as Usual – 1982 – Junior year in high school I was tight with a group of guys.  We went out every weekend in search of hot women, but always ended up just as we started; 8 guys at our buddy’s house.  We’d get a couple 12 packs of Little Kings, listen to music and laugh.  Around that time we were rushing fraternities down at the University of Illinois and we decided, one drunken night, to form our own right then and there.  We christened it Phi Muffa Diva.  But it would be awhile before any of us could put that to work.  One night on the radio we heard “Traveling in a fried-out combie, On a hippie trail, head full of zombie.”  We all looked at each other and couldn’t figure out what it was we were hearing and what they were saying, but in an odd way we liked it.  It was so different, like what you’d imagine if you crossed reggae with Australian accents and some whacked out lyrics.

JC_American_Fool 5. John Cougar, American Fool – 1982 –  In 1982, my junior year in high school, my girlfriend Diane, who went to the high school across town, one day told me she had her dad’s car and she’d pick me up after school.  Never wanting to take the bus, I agreed to meet her in the circle drive in front of my school.  Everyone congregated there, in the circle drive, hanging out, waiting for their bus; talking.  It was the after-school hangout.  I’m waiting and realize I have no idea what kind of car she has.  Just then a red corvette with a beautiful blond pulls in and stops.  Wow, one of the teachers has a hottie!  Everyone stops to see the vision.  She gets out of the car and starts looking around and it hit me that it was Diane.  Right in front of the whole school I kiss her hello and get in.  Off we go.  I am so cool!  She played her favorite song, Jack and Diane.  Though I never got to “dribble off those Bobby Brooks”, I fell in love with that song and have listened to Cougar/Mellencamp ever since.

Police-album-zenyattamondatta 6. The Police, Zenyatta Mondatta – 1980 – The initial bass of Don’t Stand So Close to Me, a Grammy winner, was haunting, mesmerizing and intriguing.  The Police fused reggae, punk, paranoid lyrics, a unique voice and outstanding musicianship and came up with a completely unique sound.  They wouldn’t reach international success until a few years later with Synchronicity, and the band soon imploded in 1984 from infighting and successful solo careers.

FleetwoodMacRumours 7. Fleetwood Mac, Rumors – 1977 – This album was the 13th by the band, but only the second with what would be their most successful lineup.  Of the five members, four were in romantic relationships with each other, and the tensions between them helped to form amazing music at the eventual cost of the relationships.  In 1978 this album won the Grammy for Album of the Year.

Billy_Joel_-_Glass_Houses 8. Billy Joel, Glass Houses – 1980 – Joel reached success prior to this album with his excellent piano ballads, but being labeled a balladeer didn’t sit well with him, so to break out of the mold he created a harder rocking collection.  Back then my best friend had a ping pong table in his basement and he was the first to have a decent sound system.  We’d crank up this album and have incredibly competitive games; sweating, screaming and playing seemingly to the death.  We started keeping a record of our wins and losses.  After 200 games we miraculously were tied.  His parents still have that table in their basement.

Candy-O_-_The_Cars 9. The Cars, Candy-O – 1979 – You don’t have to have a great musical voice to have a great rock voice and Ben Orr and Rik Ocasec’s voices were definitely the latter.  The album cover was so hot back then, and the song Let’s Go illustrated perfectly how the band merged guitar oriented rock with synthesizers to create a post punk/new wave sound.  This group, along with the Police, are examples of art, pushing the boundaries of what we have seen before to create a new category, sound and look.

The_Eagles_-_The_Eagles 10. The Eagles, The Eagles – 1972 – The Eagles’ laid back country rock told stories of relationship struggles, like country songs, but had a rock edge and would set the tone for them to become one of the most successful bands of the 70’s.  But internal struggles, and successful solo careers would eventually spell an end to them in 1980.  They were quoted as saying they would reunite, “when hell freezes over.”  In 1994 hell did freeze over with their reunion.

TheBeeGeesSaturdayNightFeveralbumcover 11. Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack – 1977 – I’m breaking my rules by putting a soundtrack in my list.  On top of that it’s disco.  I’m holding my head in shame, but I can’t ignore this album.  Between 1977 and 1980 I must have attended over 3 million bar mitzvahs and dancing was the secret to getting close to girls.  Our junior high even had a dance class that everyone attended, including the most hard core tough guys.  This music was everywhere and we wore those polyester leisure suits, open collared shirts, large gold necklaces and slicked back hair.  My relatives would come over and we’d play this album in our basement, practicing the Hustle to Stayin’ Alive, learning the lyrics and perfecting John Travolta’s look, all in the name of making out.  Getting close to girls had a price, and disco was it.  A few years later at Comiskey Park, shock jock Steve Dahl would hold Disco Demolition Night at the Sox game, signaling the end of Disco and thus making it harder for me to get close to girls. 

Rush_Permanent_Waves 12. Rush, Permanent Waves – 1980 – I could fill my list entirely with Rush, the greatest band in history.  They are not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, their songs are considered too long for radio play and they don’t pander to the mainstream, as great artists shouldn’t.  This album only has 6 songs on it, but each one takes you on a trip through time and space with their amazing instrumentation, odd time signatures, and lyrics that explored science, science fiction, the writing of Ayn Rand and other atypical rock themes.  Rush became known as progressive rock for these reasons and has captured a loyal following.  Again, Geddy Lee is proof that a beautiful voice is not necessary to make incredible rock.

As their career lagged on they felt they were losing touch with their audience and decided to take a different tack.  They ditched the instruments and hired the choreographer from the pop band 98 degrees, Lea Dellecave.  They trained for months on their moves and worked hard to achieve a danceable sound.  Geddy Lee described the experience, “We were so used to having our instruments as a buffer between us and the audience, and we really never had dance moves or choreography, but getting rid of the instruments was liberating, and that’s what the kids like these days.  My body was sore for months.”  Unfortunately, Rush’s dance pop album, Rush Rush ’til You Drop Girl, featuring their only top 500 hits, Girl, I Love You Girl and Love is the Way I Love You Woman, flopped, and the band picked their instruments back up and returned to their progressive ways.*

Nevertheless, with 24 gold records and 14 platinum, and a reputation of being the most proficient players of their respective instruments, their omission from the Rock Hall of Fame is an embarrassment not to Rush, but to those who vote for new members.

Dreamboatannie 13. Heart, Dreamboat Annie – 1976 – Hard rocking sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson headlined Heart and and their debut album Dreamboat Annie made a great splash in the music scene.  Mixing great vocals and guitar with a hot look, they dominated the 70’s charts.  Eventually their popularity waned, but they made a comeback in the mid 80’s as power balladeers.

JethroTullAqualungalbumcover 14. Jethro Tull, Aqualung – 1971 – In 1979, my freshman year in high school, our class was working feverishly to make the freshman class homecoming float at a student’s parent’s garage.  Wanting to get to know the girls in my class better, I went.  One of the girls, who was the first to develop girl parts, Margaret, was there and I struck up a conversation.  Music is always a common ground and I asked her what she liked.  She said Jethro Tull.  Wanting to be seen as cool, I agreed, “Yeah, he’s pretty cool.  I like that guy Alice Cooper too, how about you?”  She had a smile on her face, but looking back I know it was a smirk, because that’s not the lead singer’s name, is just the band name.  No wonder I struck out with her.  But I did get into Tull and really appreciated their unique brand of rock that included Ian Anderson’s voice and flute.

Mister_Heartbreak_-_Laurie_Anderson 15. Laurie Anderson, Mister Heartbreak – 1984 – Born in Glen Ellyn, Il, Laurie Anderson is an avant garde experimental performance artist and musician and an incredibly creative one at that.  This album featured guest performances by Peter Gabriel and William Burroughs and I can’t even begin to describe her style.  Suffice it to say that watching her in concert is like watching an artist creating sculpture.  I can’t think of any other musician that compares.  She has her own genre.  She combines poetry, art, music, film and an eclectic array of instruments to create an unusually satisfying experience for the listener or concert goer.  This lady has no fear and takes risks.

Songs_About_Jane 16. Maroon 5, Songs About Jane – 2002 – Don’t say I didn’t include anything from this millennium in my list.  There’s something about odd voices and unique sounds that make rock groups stand apart from the pack.  To me this group sounds like a modern version of the Police in their musical stylings.  And I love the album cover.

Rhythm_Of_The_Saints 17. Paul Simon, The Rhythm of the Saints – 1990 – Simon captured lightning in a bottle with his previous release Graceland, featuring South African sounds, and he tried to repeat it with this album, using the Latin American sounds of the Afro Brazilian group Olodum.  And it worked.  It didn’t reach the same critical success as Graceland, but it was a winner regardless.

AutomaticCover 18. REM, Automatic for the People – 1992 – I love all their albums so I could’ve picked any one of them.  I guess this was just the one that came to mind.  I love the acoustic sound and dark lyrics, though as I said in the previous 25 Greatest article, I still don’t understand what Michael Stipe is saying.  Perhaps that’s what makes it so mysterious.  I first heard them in college when one of my fraternity brothers played the album Murmur for me.  And ironically, murmur is a perfect description of Stipes’ voice.

Lost_Highway 19. Bon Jovi, Lost Highway – 2007 – I told my wife she could pick one album, and she chose this one.  I am not a Bon Jovi fan and only listen to them when we’re in her car and she forces me to.  I can’t get myself to admit they’re good, but if she loves them, and I love her, doesn’t the transitive property of equality state a = b and b = c, then a = c, and therefore mean that I love Bon Jovi?  So there you go.  My wife put John Bon Jovi on her “list”.  Hope he doesn’t come to town too often.

Thin_Lizzy_-_Jailbreak  20. Thin Lizzy, Jailbreak – 1976 – Before Ireland gave us U2 they contributed Thin Lizzy to the world.  And it’s a good thing.  Their double lead guitar style, and working class lyrics made them great. Their lead singer and creative force was Phil Lynott, who passed in 1986 after years of drug use and alcohol dependency.  Another great falls.

 TomPetty 21. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Self Titled – 1979 – The theme of this set of 25 albums seems to be singers with bad singing voices can make great rock.  Tom Petty, with his Bob Dylan type voice and influence of the band, The Byrds, busted into the national spotlight with this, his 3rd album.  This was one of the very first albums I ever bought.  The band’s music seems simplistic next to many of the greats such as The Who, Pink Floyd and Rush, yet in my experience I have found that those who are masters of their craft can make difficult things seem easy.  This album is loaded with great hits including Refugee, Don’t Do Me Like That and Here Comes My Girl.

Fragile 22. Yes, Fragile – 1971 – This was my first venture into progressive rock and it made me fall in love with the genre.  Rick Wakeman’s baroque style keyboards and Jon Anderson’s odd, female sounding voice, combined with fantastic lyrics and great jams to make an incredible sound.  I first heard this album when my high school friend Michelle took me to her friend’s party.  We were freshman and these people were in their early 20’s and really laid back and cool.  I totally didn’t fit in.  But I discovered that I loved Yes and that I wasn’t cool.  Yet.  Ok, still working on the “cool” thing.

10000ManiacsInMyTribe 23. 10,000 Maniacs, In My Tribe – 1987 – Score another one for bands with interesting voices.  Natalie Merchant, lead singer, had a voice that was way off the beaten path, yet undeniably sexy (though perhaps she wasn’t).  Many lead singers often become more popular than the band itself.  Such was the case here, and in 1993 Natalie Merchant embarked on a solo career.  The Maniacs continued to make albums and tour but never recaptured the popularity.

zztop 24. ZZ Top, Deguello – 1979 – Before they reached the height of their popularity with their Eliminator album, they put out this blues/southern/hard rock masterpiece.  Their single, Cheap Sunglasses, put them on the map, and they would don their trademark sunglasses thereafter.  They proved you don’t have to be beautiful to put out beautiful music.

PhilCollinsFaceValues 25. Phil Collins, Face Value – 1981 – Phil had become the defacto leader of Genesis after Peter Gabriel left the band.  He put out his first solo album while going through a painful divorce.  I felt his pain and frustration while trying to get to 2nd base with my then girlfriend.  We lived close to Northwestern University, which was along the lakefront, and we would drive to the beach on summer nights and make out to Phil’s music.  Perhaps I should’ve chosen something more romantic?

You’ve made it to the end, so as a special reward I present you with a bonus great album!  Thanks for coming so far.

GenesisTrick76 26. Genesis, A Trick of the Tail – 1976 – When Peter Gabriel left the group they went on a search for a new lead singer.  But they didn’t have to look far.  Drummer Phil Collins filled the role quite nicely.  This album was a bit of a departure for the progressive rock band, as it had a harder edge to it compared to Gabriel’s art-rock influence.  With Collins as lead singer they had to hire a second drummer for their live shows, and the drummer from Yes, Bill Bruford, initially joined them but was later replaced by the awesome Chester Thompson.  I saw Genesis in 1984 in the St. Louis Checkerdome.  There were periods in the performance where both drummers would be playing at the same time and it was masterful.

This was an enjoyable journey through some great memories for me.  We associate music with significant events in our lives, and all of these hold special places in my life.  But don’t think that nothing special has occurred for me since 1980.  It’s just that time cements the memories to the music, and in 10 or 20 years some of today’s best will make it on my list.

I would love to hear your comments.  Add some of your favorites.

*Seriously, I’m just kidding.

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January 26, 2009 - Posted by | Mp3, Opinions

2 Comments »

  1. Wow, you have great music taste, you must have grown up in the 70-80’s and be a 40 sumthin’ dude 🙂
    its all good. Except you forgot the GREASE album 🙂

    Comment by AlottaF | March 5, 2009 | Reply

  2. Rumours, Jailbreak, and Fragile are the only good Albums you have on that list. This is a truly horrible list. You must not listen to much music if you think these are the GREATEST albums ever. I would understand if you said they were your “Favorite” but to say that Songs About Jane or even Fragile are within the top 25 albums ever would be extremely wrong.

    Comment by Karl | August 4, 2009 | Reply


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