Brad’s post below on his Top 101 albums of the rock era got me thinking about my favorite albums of the same era. And given his hopes that we all do a similar post, I’m only too happy to oblige now given a few free hours and an overwhelming urge to write something (that’s not job related, which I get enough of Monday-Friday and often times on weekends).
I’ve discussed elsewhere that coming up with a list of five or ten desert island discs would be nearly impossible for me. If I was a secret agent under interrogation, a knowledgeable interrogator could easily get actionable intelligence from me by simply trying to force me to come up with such a list. Thus, I’m not going to restrict this list to any particular number of albums.
On the other hand, I am going to put one restriction on this list – I’m not going to list anything I’ve first heard in 2013. For me, it takes time to fully digest great works of art, and thus all of these albums here will be ones that have stood the test of time for me. This will eliminate some great albums from the list, such as English Electric 2 by Big Big Train, Riverside’s spectacular Shrine of New Generation Slaves, and other great releases from a year that is shaping up to be one of incredible abundance for excellent prog rock. It will also eliminate albums such as Spirt of Eden by Talk Talk and Tick Tock by Gazpacho, neither of which I had actually heard until a few months ago. Nevertheless, all of the releases mentioned in this paragraph are extremely likely to end up on a future edition of this list.
Finally, here and there, I will add a few notes about some of the albums on the list. Maybe to give some insight as to why I like them, maybe an interesting fact about them … who knows. The reasons will hopefully be self-evident.
Genre-wise, the list will cover a lot more than just prog, but generally will stay within the realm of rock. This will eliminate some other favorite albums, such as two excellent releases of instrumental flamenco guitar by the late Italian guitarist Gino D’ Auri. It will also eliminate some classical guitar oriented albums by Steve Hackett that I otherwise like very much.
Anwyay, without further adieu, my list:
AC/DC – Back in Black
Aerosmith – Toys in the Attic
Aerosmith – Rocks
Aerosmith – Rock in a Hard Place (this is a *very* underrated album among Aerosmith fans, in my opinion, probably since it was the only one without Joe Perry. But Jimmy Crespo did a bang-up job in his role, and this album flat out rocks. As an Amazon reviewer noted, it’s “criminally underrated.”)
Arena – The Visitor
The Beatles – Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Big Big Train – English Electric, Part 1
Big Big Train – The Underfall Yard
Black Sabbath – Paranoid
Black Sabbath – Sabotage
Black Sabbath – The Mob Rules
The Cult – Electric
The Cult – Sonic Temple
Days of the New I (sometimes referred to as ‘Yellow’)
Days of the New II (sometimes referred to as ‘Green’. This album came out in autumn, 1999, around the time I was going through a divorce from my first wife. As you can imagine, I was a whirlwind of emotions. This album both resonated with me and grounded me during that time. It’s also spectacularly good).
Drive By Truckers – Southern Rock Opera
Drive By Trucker – The Dirty South (If you’ve ever lived south of the Mason-Dixon line for any extended length of time and like raw, gritty music, then these two albums are for you).
Emerson, Lake, and Palmer – Trilogy
Emerson, Lake, and Palmer – Brain Salad Surgery
Fleetwood Mac – Rumours (one of the best pop albums ever. It showed that ‘pop’ and ‘quality’ need not be mutually exclusive. I swear my opinion here is in no way swayed by the fact that Stevie Nicks was a strong celebrity crush of mine in the late ’70’s … no, really … ok, maybe a little)
The Flower Kings – Space Revolver
Gazpacho – Night
Genesis – Selling England by the Pound
Genesis – A Trick of the Tail
Genesis – Wind and Wuthering
Glass Hammer – Perilous
Grateful Dead, Charlotte, 3-23-1995 (This isn’t officially an album, but rather a bootleg recording of the only Grateful Dead show I ever attended. While I was nothing close to being a Deadhead, it was a great show, and I can certainly understand why The Dead had so many dedicated fans. One additional note – Bruce Hornsby sat in on piano that night).
Heart – Little Queen
Iron Maiden – Piece of Mind
Iron Maiden – Powerslave
Jane’s Addiction – Ritual de lo Habitual
Jefferson Airplane – The Worst of Jefferson Airplane (yes, a greatest hits album, but what a great collection of songs here).
Jethro Tull – Thick as a Brick
Jethro Tull – Warchild
Jethro Tull – Minstrel in the Gallery
Jethro Tull – Songs from the Wood
John Cougar Mellencamp – Scarecrow
Jon and Vangelis – Short Stories
Jon Anderson – Olias of Sunhillow
Jon Anderson – Song of Seven
Jon Anderson – Change We Must
Judas Priest – British Steel
Kansas – Leftoverture
Kansas – Point of Know Return
Kerry Livegren – Seeds of Change
King Crimson – In The Court of the Crimson King
Led Zeppelin – III
Led Zeppelin – IV
Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy
Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti
Led Zeppelin – Presence (It would seem strange to call a band as lauded as Led Zeppelin ‘underrated’, but I think the label applies. They did music that falls into so many different genres, from bluesy music such as ‘When The Levee Breaks’, to prog-tinted stuff such as ‘Stairway to Heaven’, ‘Kashmir’ and ‘In The Light’, to folky stuff such as ‘The Battle of Evermore’ and ‘Gallows Pole’ to flat out rockers such as ‘Rock and Roll’ and ‘Out on the Tiles’ … and they did them all extremely well).
Lone Justice – their self-titled debut. (Their cowpunk sound was a little bit ahead of it’s time, and if they had debuted in the mid-90’s or later when the alt-country wave hit, they might still be around. Also, it’s entirely possible my opinion here is swayed a bit again by the celebrity crush thing, the object of which being lead singer Maria McKee)
Marillion – Script for a Jester’s Tear
Marillion – Clutching at Straws
Marillion – Brave (this was an album that didn’t click with me on the first few listens, and I set it aside. Years later I picked it up again, gave it a good listen, and was blown away, wondering how I missed it the first time around. A true masterpiece).
Montrose – their self-titled debut.
The Moody Blues – Days of Future Passed
Mother Love Bone – a self-titled album. (One really wonders how music history would have been different if the lead singer of this Seattle-based band, the flamboyant Andrew Wood, hadn’t succumbed to his demons and died of a heroin overdose on the verge of releasing their debut album in 1990. There almost certainly would have been no Pearl Jam, and I wonder if the grunge thing would have ever taken off, given that Mother Love Bone’s sound was nothing like that of the other bands of the same time and place).
Neil Young and Crazy Horse – Live Rust
Neil Young and Crazy Horse – Weld (both live albums, and thus compilations, but both are very good. In fact, I think most of the songs on these albums sound better live than in the studio).
Paul Simon – Graceland
Pearl Jam – Vitalogy
Pete Townshend – Empty Glass
Pete Townshend – White City (a ridiculously underrated album)
Pink Floyd – Meddle
Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
The Police – Syncrhonicity
Porcupine Tree – Fear of a Blank Planet
Queen – News of the World
R.E.M. – Life’s Rich Pageant
Renaissance – Novella
Renaissance – Turn of the Cards
Riverside – Rapid Eye Movement (I thought of this album as pretty good when I first listened. I’ve re-assessed lately, and now realize it’s great, the best of the ‘Reality Dream’ trilogy in my opinion).
Riverside – Anno Domini High Definition
The Rolling Stones – Some Girls
Rush – 2112
Rush – A Farewell to Kings
Rush – Hemispheres
Rush – Permanent Waves
Rush – Moving Pictures
Rush – Grace Under Pressure
Rush – Power Windows
Rush – Clockwork Angels
Rush – Exit Stage Left (a great live album)
Saga – World’s Apart
Simple Minds – Once Upon A Time (Another album that proved ‘pop’ and ‘quality’ need not be mutually exclusive. This album had some exceptionally strong melodies).
Soundgarden – Badmotorfinger
Steve Hackett – Voyage of the Acolyte
Steve Hackett – Spectral Mornings
Tool – Lateralus
Tool – 10,000 Days
Trevor Rabin – Can’t Look Away
U2 – War
Van Halen – Fair Warning (another very underrated album)
Wang Chung – To Live and Die in LA Soundtrack
The Who – Tommy
The Who – Who’s Next
The Who – Quadrophenia
The Who – Who Are You
Yes – The Yes Album
Yes – Fragile
Yes – Close to the Edge
Yes – Going for the One
Yes – Drama