The TOP-10 Of My 100 Favorite Albums of All-Time
# means I discovered it later
10) Pink Floyd - The Piper At The Gates of Dawn (1967, E.M.I.) - Except for Ummagumma or Atom Heart Mother, and the Roger Waters-less albums, Piper at the Gates of Dawn may be one of the Pink Floyd albums I listen to the least. Most of the other albums have gotten more spins from me over the years because they can be listened to anywhere. To get the full experience of Piper at the Gates of Dawn it needs to be listened to where it gets your undivided attention. Preferably with a really good pair of headphones too. This way you can hear all the various sounds and nuances in songs like “Astronomy Domine”, “Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk”, and especially the nearly 10-minute “Interstellar Overdrive”. Plus, no knock on Roger Waters or David Gilmour (who would join for the next album) but Syd Barret’s vocals on songs like "Gnome" and "Scarecrow" are just extraordinary. Except for a few singles and a song on the next album, this is all the Syd Barrett you get so I would recommend checking out his solo albums Madcap Laughs and Barrett. (#)
9) Bad Brains - S/T (1982, Reach Out International) - Nothing can really prepare someone for
the first time they hear the Bad Brains, especially if it's this debut they hear first. I have enjoyed watching many people's facial expressions when the play button is hit. The blazing guitars of Dr. Know on 1-2-3 tracks of "Sailin' On", "Don't Need It", and "Attitude", the leadoff bass by Daryl Jennifer on "The Regulator" into the stomp of "Banned In DC", all with singer H.R. leading the way. Unlike other Bad Brains albums where I would skip most the reggae songs, here at Track 6 "Jah Calling" you appreciate a second to catch your breath before they kick it in again with "Supertouch/Shitfit". After one more reggae song, you get five more Bad Brains classics including "Big Take Over", their first single "Pay to cum", and my favorite, "Right Brigade". A few of these songs would appear on their next album Rock for Light but they so much more primal here. (#)
8) Slint - Spiderland (1991, Touch and G0) -
I was listening to Slint's second album Spiderland when my wife started asking me a question. I asked her to hold on a minute because my favorite part of the song "Breadcrumb Trail", the last little "solo" by guitarist Dave Pajo at the 4:36 mark, was about to come on. When the song was over she said, "Song? I thought it was just a band tuning up". This is actually a good description of the band, especially for their misunderstood previous album Tweez, On Spiderland it works. None of the six songs contain a "verse chorus verse" structure. Instead rely on the guitar, bass, and drum harmonics. Still, vocalist Brian McMahon still manages to relay characters and stories, some even with subplots. Track 5 "For Dinner" is instrumental. It is also amazing the band could record such an incredible album, it literally created a new genre ("Math Rock"), at such a young age. The band is most known from incredible "Good Morning, Captain" is included on the soundtrack to the 1995 movie "Kids". It's an intense 7-minute song that will keep you on your toes the whole time. (*)
7) Ramones – Leave Home (1977, Sire) – I have to say I probably like the first three Ramones albums almost equally, with Road to Ruin and End of the Century right behind them. Leave Home gets a few more spins because the songs just sound a little more varied than the self-titled debut and Rocket to Russia. Besides the “1-2-3 Hey Ho, let’s go” numbers like “Glad to See You Go” and “Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment” there are also some tracks that throw in some different elements. The slower tempo of “I Remember You” and “What’s Your Game", the revved-up guitar before the choruses of “Suzy is a Headbanger”, and the built-up lead in first verse on “You’re Gonna Kill That Girl” keep Leave Home just a tad more interesting than the albums before it and the one after.(#)
6) The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds (1966, Capital) - It
may be a little cliche to include this album so high on the list but it really is one I listen to a lot since I rediscovered it around 2000. (I wrote more in-depth about it here). It is especially in heavy rotation this time a year when the weather is warming up and we start spending more time outside. Of course when it gets really warm the earlier more sunshine-filled Beach Boys gets slipped into the rotation. Except for "Good Vibrations" of the next album and "Darlin'" a few albums down no post-Pet Sounds Beach Boys really get played in my rotation. On a side note, I recommend checking out the live album Graduation Day 1966 where you get a good mix of older Beach Boys songs and the newer Pet Sounds. The second more inebriated show on the album is particularly entertaining. (#)
5) The Zombies - Odessey and Oracle (1968, CBS) - Not going to get too deep into the album because I wrote about it here but to this day it still amazes me that is 1966 a band could get away being named after an undead being whose only purpose is to seak out brains for eating. But is you think about it The Beatles are kind of named after a bug. Then to have the track "She's Coming Home" about a female prison inmate getting released as their opening song. Just like the Pink Floyd album at #10 this album demands to be listened to in completion with a good pair of headphones It contains so many almost nut important sound coming from all directions. It also contains so many perfect harmonies to rival that band more known for them at #6.
4) Husker Du - Zen Arcade (1984, SST) - Another album I wrote more in-depth about here.
On some of these past entries, I would instead say something about my second favorite album by the artist. With Husker Du I would probably rate all the others equal behind this masterpiece. Each one has pluses and minus I could point out. This one is perfect. (*)
3) Minutemen - Double Nickels on the Dime (1984, SST) - My memory may be mistaken but I am pretty sure I bought Zen Arcade at the same time I picked up Double Nickels On The Dime so they are pretty much neck in neck as a favorite. The Minutemen's album gets just a slight nod. Right down to the cover image and insert images of guitarist D Boon, bassist Mike Watt, and drummer George Hurley individually driving cars, Double Nickles is essentially a road album and the first album I grab for a long trip. Even the first song is called "D's Road Jam/Anxious Mofo" and its final track called "Three Car Jam". In between, there are 38 tracks of original short songs filled with Boon's signature guitar and smart mostly socio-political lyrics, Watts's all over the place bass, and Hurley's pounding drums. The album also contains two awesome covers. One of a band I like in CCR's "Don't Look Now" and the other of a band I really do not in Steely Dan's "Doctor Wu". In my opinion, both are done far better by The Minutemen. Side Note: One thing I also always loved about this album is that it was originally supposed to be a single album. When the band found out Zen Arcade was going to be a double they went back in the studio and recorded a few more songs to match it. In the middle of the lyric sheet, it even says " Take that Huskers!" (*)
2) Sonic Youth - Daydream Nation (1988, Enigma) - I explored this album very in-depth in the first post to this blog here 9 years ago so I won't go into too much again. Let's just say this album means so much to me and important to all sorts of alternative music in general that I pretty much built a New York City Tour around the album, Sonic Youth, the No Wave scene they were influenced by as well as bands and venues they went on to influence themselves. Read all about the tour here.
1) Dinosaur Jr - You're Living All Over Me (1987, SST) - Are there any albums out there where after over 30
years of listening you can still be amazed and left wondering how in the world did they come up with this? That is how J Mascis's wall of noise filled lead-off track "Little Fury Things", sludge guitar filled "Sludgefest" (Track 3), driving guitars of "Raisins" (Track 5), tidal waves of guitar on "Tarpit" (Track 6), and all the great songs in between on You're Living All Over Me leave me with, even with at least a weekly listen. Somehow at Track 7, they manage to fit in what is essentially a pop song with "In a Jar" at Track 7 before the bassist Lou Barlow pounds it home with his sole lead vocal album appearance on what you think is the closing track "Lose". And it's not just the music which blows my mind. Certain lyrics are just incredible too. Not one note is out of place over the entire 36 minutes, right down to the 2-second drum fill by Murph halfway through "Raisins". I've always had the SST Records original CD version, so for after the true closer of the weird tape loop acoustic recording of Lou Barlow's "Poledo", I get Dinosaur's (as they were still known at the time of the album's release) awesome cover of Peter Frampton's "Show Me the Way". The last few releases on other labels replace it with their equally awesome cover of The Cure's "Just Like Heaven", which originally appeared a couple years later. (#)
A couple Honorable Mentions or Albums I forgot about
Soul Asylum - Hang Time (1988, A&M)
Faith No More - The Real Thing (1990, Slash)
Naked Raygun - Jettison (1988, Homestead)
Tar - Jackson (1991, Amphetamine Reptile)
Corrosion of Conformity - Eye for an Eye (1984, No Core)