Tuesday, February 17, 2009

My Top 20 Albums of All Time


Alright my friend Nick Eskow has started a chain of coming up with your Top 20 Albums and then explaining why and what they mean to you, make you think of in a place or time and most importantly how they make you feel. If this interests any of you please come up with your own top 20 albums list and send it to me.

1.Cream-Disraeli Gears-Reminds me of senior year of high school when I was first discovering psychedelic rock and was inspired by Eric Clapton's luminescent guitar along with Jack Bruce's surreal lyrics about building castles high up in the clouds. Songs like "Strange Brew," Tales Of Brave Ullysses and "Swlbar" are still classics in my mind that we never hear much anymore. Whoever saw Cream at Madison Square Garden a few years back I am envious of you!




2.Led Zeppelin IV-This album was the soundtrack to countless snowboarding trips and represents the magic of being out there blazing down trails with the music cranked. You really get a feel for songs like "Black Dog" and "Rock N' Roll," then you can listen to the quieter songs like "Battle Of Evermore" and "Stairway To Heaven" on the chairlift ride up. This whole album represents that magic you feel being out in a forest or a mountain surrounded by nature and beauty.





3.Pink Floyd-Dark Side Of The Moon-This is hands down the best Pink Floyd album out there. It's when the band really hit a creative peak as a cohesive unit in the post Syd Barrett era. After this album Roger Waters really took over and while The Wall is still great it's not as orbital as Dark Side. Lets face it you don't hear songs like "Time" or "The Great Gig In The Sky'" everyday. I love all the commentary by the Abbey Road studio doorman that you hear if you listen very closely on headphones. This album captures of the essence of great sound.



4.Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young-Deja Vu-CSNY got that much better when they added Neil Young as his songs like "Helpless" and "Country Girl." Stephen Stills was also such a huge talent writing the opener "Carry On," which always brings me back to sophomore year at K dorm playing the whole record countless times on my turntable. David Crosby's "Almost Cut My Hair' is one of his best songs he has ever written. These guys really represent the woodstock era of the 60s music scene and really made folk rock more popular than anybody would have ever conceived it could be.


5.Beatles-Abbey Road-A lot of people like the early Beatles Hard Days Night era which I don't understand. The Beatles perfected their craft as the 60s wore on and cut their best album with Abbey Road. George Harrison was finally being allowed to compose some of his best music with songs like "Something" about his wife Patti Boyd, and "Here Comes The Sun" that he wrote while hanging out with Clapton in his garden. I think another reason I'll always love this album is because my cousin Eddie gave me a tape of it when I was about ten and it was really the first Beatles I ever heard so it would really influence my younger years a lot.

6.Beach Boys-Pet Sounds-Another band that really dates back to my back pages is The Beach Boys. I started listening to them through Eddie around the same time that I got into The Beatles. I've always liked Pet Sounds the best because that's just Brian Wilson hitting his genius before he had that huge nervous breakdown. "Caroline No," "God Only Knows," and "Wouldn't It Be Nice" have always been some of my favorite songs of all time. These aren't songs about surfing anymore Brian had developed into a serious songwriter, and I think if "Good Vibrations" had made it on this record it could have been even better.


7. The Byrds-The Notorious Byrd Brothers- I've only gotten into The Byrds in recent years but I'm starting to dive into them more and more as time persists and the more I listen the better they continue to sound. This is another band that had a ton of internal talent with Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, Gene Clark, and Chris Hillman all capable of writing outstanding compositions. Their covers are sometimes their best though especially Pete Seegar's "Turn! Turn! Turn!, Carlole Kings "Goin' Back," and of course Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man"



8.Rolling Stones-Sticky Fingers-I love The Stones as they progressed and carried on despite the loss of Brian Jones. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards really took a firm hold of the band and wrote their best material. "Wild Horses" is their most beautiful song ever and "Brown Sugar" might be their most rocking. Their are countless other songs that sound nothing like The Stones were doing on prior albums like "Dead Flowers" and "Sister Morphine" as well as the sax driven "Can’t You Hear Me Knocking."




9.The Doors-The Doors-I remember buying my first Doors album in 10th grade not long after seeing Oliver Stone's movie on the band. I was amazed how much they could go into these long solos like on "Light My Fire" where organist Ray Manzarek and guitarist Robbie Krieger go back to back. Also "The End" was a tune I would always play in my Dad's basement back in DC for some reason and I would hook up my microphone I had bought to an amp and try to sing over it. Jim Morrison was a true poet just listen to "The Crystal Ship" and "End Of The Night' and it's obvious enough



10.Tom Waits-Rain Dogs-This was the soundtrack of my six months working at Rasputin Records. I listened to it practically every day at work as I was just starting to discover him last year and either this album or Bone Machine was usually on at some point during the day. His songs on Rain Dogs are all really short but somehow he gets to the point really fast on songs like""Jockey Full of Bourbon," and Anywhere I Lay My Head," and god that voice is so powerful and amazing when he spouts off crazy lines like, "Let me fall out of the window with confetti in my hair. Deal out jacks or better by a blanket by the stairs. Tell you all my secrets but I lie about my past. Send me off to bed forevermore." -Tango Til They're Sore

11.The Band-The Band-The Band are the best band to ever come out of Canada and they don't even sound Canadian! Levon Helm was actually from Arkansas and he did sing the great anthem on this album about the Civil War "The Night They Drove Ol' Dixie Down." As much as I love Helm I'll always be a bigger Richard Manuel fan with his beautiful high voice on ephereal songs like "Whispering Pines" that take you into another world. Rick Danko also wrote some killer songs off The Band. This album will always make me think of summer 2006 hanging out with Joel, Colby and Tim at their place on Parker and Grant many a late night and singing along to "Up On Cripple Creek", "Rocking Chair" and "When You Awake."

11.Jimi Hendrix Experience-Electric Ladyland-This was the third and final album by The Experience and it took them out even further then either Are You Experienced or Axis: Bold As Love into the realm of Hendrix’s exceptional guitar wailing. The songs became longer and more improvised like the fifteen minute jam “Voodoo Chile” between Hendrix and guest musician Steve Winwood on organ. There is no doubt Hendrix was striving for perfection with his explorations of the guitar on this record as he would do over forty takes for some of the key songs on this album like the Dylan cover of “All Along The Watchtower” and “Voodoo Child (Slight Return).” This album reminds me of Sophmore year of college listening to songs like “Rainy Day Dream Away” on the turntable on days when it was too wet to go outside and do anything

12.Neil Young-Harvest-It’s hard to pick a favorite Neil Young album because there are so many great ones from After The Goldrush to Tonight's The Night all the way up to Rust Never Sleeps. Still if I had to go with just one on a deserted island it would have to be Harvest. I think Harvest was the first Neil album I heard after getting his Decade album which is all his hits. Harvest has so many peaks from Young’s only number one hit “Heart Of Gold,” to the banjo driven “Old Man,” which will always make me think of my Dad because as different as we are we are still very similar in a lot of ways. The steel guitar on some of these songs is also incredible as are the backing vocals by Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor.

13.Grateful Dead-American Beauty-As much as people like to believe The Grateful Dead were only a good live band, this album will prove they also rocked in the studio. After years of sub par studio efforts The Dead finally perfected their songwriting craft in 1970 when they came out with their two best studio recordings, American Beauty and Workingman’s Dead. Beauty was slightly better as every song on the album was unique in a different way. I got into The Grateful Dead around the same time I was getting into jam bands like The Allman Brothers, and Phish during my senior year of high school. I remember hearing “Box Of Rain” a song Phil Lesh wrote for his dying father for the first time and it really touched me. “Look out of any window, any morning, any evening, any day.” There are countless other down home stoner country classics on this album from “Friend Of The Devil” to “Brokedown Palace,” to what would become one of The Dead’s live anthems “Truckin'.”

14.Yes-Fragile-The first time I heard Fragile was freshmen year at Evergreen and it was my first exposure to Yes. I remember driving around cool places like The Grand Tetons with Dan or Lake Tahoe area with Eli blasting this record. Lets face it this band was talented with a keyboardist like Rick Wakemen and guitarist Steve Howe just rocking out for over ten minutes at a time on songs like “Heart of The Sunrise.” I remember getting my brother Joe into “Roundabout” when I brought a copy of Fragile home from college. I still love Yes and songs like “Long Distance Runaround” and “South Side of the Sky” are still my favorites. This band really opened my mind up to listening to more progressive rock as I’ve gone on to love bands like King Crimson and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer

15.Derek & The Dominoes-Layla & Other Asssorted Love Songs- Eric Clapton was in so many brilliant bands from The Yardbirds, to John Mayall Blues Breakers, to Cream, to Blind Faith, and then he joined one of his best bands ever Derek and The Dominoes where he finally embraced being a frontman. This is the best double album ever to be released! Clapton recrutied most of the members of Delaney & Bonnie like drumer Jim Gordon and keyboardist Bobby Whitlock, while also recording with Allman Brothers late guitarist Duane Allman. This album is always great to put on when something goes wrong in a relationship. You can really feel Clapton’s mournful lyrics in “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out.” Most of the songs ont this record were written to seduce George Harrison’s wife at the time, Patti Boyd. The title track “Layla,” “Have You Ever Loved A Woman,” and “I Am Yours” would be some of the best material Clapton woud ever write. Also The Dominoes cover of Hendrix’s “Little Wing” amazing and much longer then the original version.

16.Nirvana-In Utero-Before I even got into classic rock I was into grunge. Nirvana-Nevermind was actually one of the first tapes I got when I was in sixth grade but it wasn’t until In Utero that I truly fell in love with Nirvana’s music. I really love the slow songs that sound a little Beatlesque, “Heart Shaped Box,” “Pennyroyal Tea,” and “All Apologies.” You can really feel the scalding pain in Kurt Cobain’s voice in songs like “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle” where he wails “I miss the comfort in being sad.” “Rape Me” was also a great testement to how he felt the press was treating him and his wife Courtney Love as they really had no respect for him.

17.Pearl jam-Ten-This is another grunge album that rocked my early years. I would always listen to Ten on tape right before going to bed in middle school so songs like “Even Flow,” “Black” and “Jeremy” will always be a part of my collective unconscious. I’ve seen Pearl Jam live more than any other band and will continue going to their shows as long as they’re around. Eddie Vedder is one of the best vocalist still around and Mike McCready is a guitar wizard with his beautifully long solos in songs like “Alive”




18.Pink Floyd-Wish You Were Here- This was the follow up to Dark Side of The Moon and it was dedicated to Syd Barrett who was the bands first guitarist and lead singer but left the band after Piper At The Gates of Dawn because he was taking way too much acid. All the lyrics in each song is about Barrett as they paint a poignant picture of him. “Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun. Now there’s a look in your eyes like black holes in the sky. Shine on you crazy diamond.” –“Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Part 1) My brother and I usually end up jamming out to “Wish You Were Here,” he’ll play accoustic guitar and I’ll just sing, “How I wish, how I wish you were here, we’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year. Running over the same old ground but have we found the same old fears. Wish you were here.”


19.Nick Drake-Pink Moon-I got into Nick Drake the last year or so but he has already become one of my favorite folk rock artists. He was so talented that it only took him a couple of nights to record Pink Moon and then he died shortly afterwards of an overdose of his antidepressant medication. Some say if the songs were as dark as the lyrics on Pink Moon it might be unlistenable but Drake’s lyrics are soothing in songs like “Place To Be,” and “Know.” My favorite track on the album is “Things Behind The Sun.”




20.Elliot Smith-From A Basement On The Hill- With all the great albums Elliot put out it was hard to pick one favorite but if I had to it would be his last album From A Basement On The Hill. As much as I love his independent shit with Kill Rock Stars as well as his well produced music with Dreamworks I think this album is a bit in between and finds the perfect balance. He was definitely trying to be more raw then he was with XO and Figure 8 which are both great albums respectively but Elliot just kept pushing his musical boundaries into another realm. Songs like “Fond Farewell To A Friend,” “Kings Crossing,” and “Lets Get Lost,” show Smith at the peak of his songwriting capabilities. Elliot should have written so many more good albums it’s really a tragedy what happened to him.

Note: Sorry if this list leaves off a lot of important bands. I know I had to cut out a few artists I really wanted to include like David Bowie-Ziggy Stardust, Jeff Buckley-Grace, George Harrison-All Things Must Pass, The Beatles-White Album, Blind Melon-Soup, Guns N’ Roses-Appetite For Destruction, Velvet Undrerground & Nico, and Van Morrison- Moondance. I could really come up with a Top 100 if I had more time.

Pink Floyd back in the 60s when Syd Barrett still graced the band.

4 comments:

  1. Amazing Bob--such careful, wonderful selections. I have to pore over each one more carefully. Thanks so much for all your interesting writing!
    gd

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  2. Dude, this list is awesome! The majority of these albums are also my favorites, and the ones I haven't listened to yet are albums that I've been planing to buy. It's awesome to find someone with a very similar taste in music. The only difference is I came to age on metal not grunge, so I would substitute in some Megadeth, Maiden, or Sabbath. I would still represent grunge though with some Soundgarden. I'm impressed you could make a list, it must have been hard. I try, but I just can't do it.

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