So a couple of weekends ago I threw out a random tweet and facebook status update that said “I’ve been listening to Throwing Copper by Live this morning…if I were to make a list of my top 10 favorite CDs that would be on it”. It really wasn’t made to be all that thought provoking, I just really like that CD and figured I’d mention it in case there were people that had never heard it. It didn’t get much of a reaction on twitter or facebook beyond the folks I already knew liked the album, but what surprised me later in the day was when I mentioned it on a current events forum I post on where one of the discussions had switched to music. Lots of folks, of just about every political belief you can come up with, liked the CD.
Within a few minutes a new thread was started where people began to discuss the “Top 10 albums of all time”, and after a logical few ground rules were laid out people began listing what they thought were the best albums ever. Considering that some of these people can’t agree on what time it is it was remarkable that in the 25 or 30 posts that went up quickly many of the same albums kept popping up, albeit in slightly different orders. It also didn’t take long for second thread to pop up about what my tweet was originally about, people’s favorite albums. (Folks will note I use “CD” and “album” interchangeably…other than the physical differences of the mediums there really is no difference between the two). At that point I was “called out” to provide my list.
I was surprised how hard it was to whittle down my musical interests into just ten “favorite” albums. To make matters a little harder the ground rules that someone had laid out were that the list should include only one selection per group, and shouldn’t include live recordings (unless it’s mostly new material) or greatest hits CDs. So, after taking two weeks of thinking about, it here are my top ten favorite albums of all time. Listed in no particular order…
Throwing Copper– Live
It would be funny for me to say it would make my list and then not have it listed, but Throwing Copper is indeed one of my favorites and was an easy inclusion to the list. I remember the first time I heard the CD, it was at one of the local pool clubs where a few of us would hang out Monday afternoons because we’d have the place basically to ourselves. The bartender would often turn off the jukebox and play whatever whatever we wanted to hear over the music system, and one week one of the waitresses had bought the CD so we threw it on to play. I was blown away by it, and went out the next afternoon and bought a copy. Live has a pretty good catalogue and I recommend all of them, but to me Throwing Copper is their best work.
Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd
One of only two recordings I have owned as an album, eight-track, cassette, and CD, Dark Side of the Moon is one of the best selling albums of all time because it’s also one of the greatest albums ever made. At under 45 minutes in length it’s best when it’s listened to straight through from beginning to end as the sings flow from one to another, with the only breaks being where one used to have to flip the record over from side one to side two. A funny story about the album…years ago when I was living at home with my parents one day I had some friends over and we were listening to Dark Side of the Moon and my mother banged on the ceiling while it was playing. My friends were worried we were playing it too loudly, but I knew the real issue: it wasn’t loud enough for my mother to hear it in the kitchen downstairs.
Quadrophenia – The Who
If it weren’t for the ground rules that only allow for one CD per band this list would have a lot of entries by The Who. They’re my all time favorite band and I listen to them a lot, so it was hard to pick just one. It came down to Who’s Next and Quadrophenia, and the double album rock opera won out in my book. Pete Townshend used four separate musical themes throughout the album to represent that different mindsets of “Jimmy”, the central character. Townshend later revealed that the different leit-motifs were based on the four members of The Who. 5:15, the first song on side three, is one of my favorite songs.
MTV Unplugged in New York – Nirvana
This one might be pushing the “no live album” rule because while it does contain many song previously released by Nirvana it really just includes one “hit”, Come as You Are from the CD Nevermind. The others were all B-sides or stuff not released as singles so many folks had likely not heard them before, so I’m counting this one. Kurt Cobain broke just about every “rule” MTV had for the Unplugged series, and because Nirvana was a hot item at the time the producers put up with it. Good thing they did, what resulted was a great recording.
Rubber Soul – Beatles
If you have to ask why, I can’t help you. One of the greatest albums ever recorded and it contains what I would vote as the greatest song ever, In My Life. Most people think Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is the Beatles’ greatest record, but to me it’s Rubber Soul by a mile. And if I were to add a second Beatles album to the list it would likely be Revolver anyway. Because back when those record were released there were usually two versions, one for the US and one for the UK, I guess I technically have to pick a version. Seeing as the UK version has Drive My Car on it I guess that’s the one I’m going with for the list.
Operation: Mindcrime – Queensrÿche
Without looking it up I’d guess Operation: Mindcrime is the lowest selling CD on my list, but it isn’t sales that determines how good an album is. I had never heard a song by Queensrÿche until Empire came out, which was a huge commercial success for the group with six Mainstream Rock top-40 singles. Fans of the group were telling people that while Empire had all the hits the rock opera Operation: Mindcrime was a better CD. They were right. It is mind-blowingly good and the perfect vehicle for the vocal talents of lead singer Geoff Tate, who for my money is one of the best heavy metal vocalists of all time.
Appetite for Destruction – Guns n’ Roses
I bought it on album, I bought it on cassette, and it was the first CD I ever bought (from That’s Entertainment in Worcester, owned by my good friend and frequent commenter Paul Howley). Something not many people know (EDIT: I just looked at Wikipedia and it’s on there, so now everyone knows I guess) but on the album it’s not labeled side A and B, but instead it’s G and R. The G-side (Guns) is all about the hard life of drugs and the toll they take, and the R-side (Roses) is all about love and relationships. They say there’s a fine line between genius and insanity, and Appetite for Destruction is what we got when Axl Rose had his feet firmly planted on the good side of that line. Most of the stuff that followed is Rose on the wrong side of that line.
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – Elton John
The other recording I have owned as an album, eight-track, cassette, and CD, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is my favorite Elton John record. It opens with Funeral for a Friend (Love Lies Bleeding), an 11 minute epic that was really supposed to be two different songs but because they sounded so good run together that’s how the two tracks ended up being recorded. The other two tracks on side one, Candle in the Wind and Bennie and the Jets, set the tone for an album that seems to have no rhyme or reason for the way the tracks are laid out. But somehow it works.
News of the World – Queen
The first Queen album I ever heard from front to back after my father bought it. Perhaps it’s that memory that add this record to my list, because it isn’t Queen’s best work nor is it the one from them I listen to the most (that would be Jazz). But to me that’s what music is supposed to be about, the memories and emotions one takes from the recording. Sometimes they’re negative, sometimes they’re positive. I own every Queen album and would call them my second favorite group, and it all started with News of the World.
For folks counting, that’s only nine….for number ten I’m cheating and will list a few more that could easily have made the list on any given day if I was forced to rush one out at the top of my head.
Boston – Boston
Bat Out Of Hell – Meatloaf
Disraeli Gears – Cream
5150 – Van Halen
Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin
Songs in the Key of Life – Stevie Wonder
Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs – Derek and the Dominos
Ten – Pearl Jam